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Wind Energy Update

31 Jan 2012 08:01:43

Wind farm O&M: predictive vs. preventative maintenance

Maintenance practices on wind turbines are primarily either 'preventative' actions performed at routine intervals according the manufacturers specification, or 'reactive' when a turbine’s component is damaged causing the machine to shut down. New 'preventative' maintenance practices are now being developed, using high tech condition monitoring technologies, which aim to reduce the overall turbine O&M lifetime costs.

One of the most important aspects of a wind turbine is the reliability of its 'critical' components (gearbox, generator, blades etc). These parts need to be properly conserved and maintained in order to achieve an optimum level of performance and reduced need for costly maintenance.

The standard time-based 'preventative' maintenance strategy used by most asset owners uses 'schedule-based' techniques and 'threshold-based' alarms. The problem with scheduling maintenance is that the intervals between inspections (typically every half year) are – in most cases – too far between to detect a problem at its early stage. Similarly the alerts activate too late to enable pre-emptive maintenance, and the maintenance subsequently turns 'reactive' rather than 'preventative'.

Another issue with 'preventative' maintenance strategies is to do with the methodologies used to determine individual maintenance inspection on wind turbines. There are typically based on the expected life of a particular component. However, the conditions in which that component sits (be it high altitude or low, hot or cold, wet or dry) are not taken into consideration, and therefore geographical issues tend to arise. 'Preventative' maintenance is therefore not likely to allow a turbine to achieve the full 20 years of operation the turbine promises.

In an answer to this issue, predictive maintenance have arisen which aims to maintain, visually inspect, measure, and analyze the condition of the turbines and perform required repairs through technology called condition monitoring (CMS). This technology, which is expensive at first, is said to lower the overall O&M costs of a turbine over its lifetime. David Brown's research emphasizes that reactive maintenance for the average utility-scale wind farm can cost $1.5million more – each year – than preventative maintenance.

David Brown, long with eight of North America's leading operators will be gathering in Dallas to discuss Utilize the latest industry experience, proven technology and O&M strategies to maximize generation and reduce costs in wind farms. Cutting edge preventative maintenance strategies will be uncovered as will the latest in CMS systems on both sides of the Altantic.

Further topics include:
• End of warranty options
• Retrofit technology and repowering
• Advanced monitoring technologies
• Life extension of critical components
• Major part failure, upgrading and repair
• Grid integration and curtailment
• Balance of plants

The high calibre of the speaker faculty for the 4th Annual Wind Energy Operations and Maintenance Summit USA makes it the most significant wind energy event for 2012. Companies confirmed include Iberdrola Renewables, Duke Energy, EDP Renewables, Infigen Energy, Edison Mission, TransAlta, Wind Capital Group, enXco, GE, Acciona, NERC, Praxis, Hytorc, Foundation Engineering and David Brown. The event promises to deliver wind O&M strategies for wind companies whether they are big or small, or new or established.

For more information on this event, speakers, agenda and workshop, contact Jon Harman.

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