According to the American Wind Energy Association, wind power is the fastest growing energy source in the world. As a result of the industry’s economic growth, wind turbine cost is dropping and maintenance issues are a much greater concern. New companies even specialize in turbine maintenance, which in turn makes the entire wind industry more sustainable.
The Need for Maintenance
o Wind turbines differ greatly from conventional power plants. For instance, wear and tear is a constant concern. The operational components of wind turbines are exposed to the elements, and they are often unmanned in remote locations. The nacelle, which houses the turbine’s mechanical parts, sits 20 feet or more in the air and is difficult to access.The World Wind Energy Association (WWEA) even concludes that the mechanical stress on wind turbines is unmatched in any other type of power generation. Both preventive and predictive measures are required to maintain a wind turbine properly. Some basic preventive measures include regular visits at six month intervals to check fluid levels, greasing and bolt torque. The WWEA reasons that a well-organized, predictive maintenance schedule utilizing alarm sensors and tests will minimize turbine outages and maximize energy output.
Wind Turbine Blade Repair
o BIS Salamis, a wind industry maintenance group, reports that studies show problems with turbine blades can reduce the performance of the entire installation by up to 30 percent. To confront these issues, perform routine maintenance checks on the hydraulic and electrical components that control the turbine blades. For example, perform a detailed examination of the electrical wiring on any and all predictive sensors. These on-board sensors help control the pitch and speed of the blades, and in the long run they can extend the life of the turbine. The blades should be cleaned of all debris, and damaged blades should be replaced immediately.
o A wind turbine gearbox is the heart of the installation, with five or six gears and a rolling system of bearings. ISOPur Fluid Technologies Inc. estimates that gearbox failures account for the largest amount of maintenance downtime and loss of production capacity. Ironically, most failures in this area are due to a lack of routine maintenance. These gearbox failures are valued at a whopping 15 to 20 percent of the turbine’s total cost. To maintain the gearbox properly, it should be well-lubricated, and the lubricant should be contaminant-free. Replace oil filters at regular intervals to combat large, foreign particles. Also, install balanced charge purifiers that eliminate small particles in the gearbox through a directed electrical charge. The conditions of the gearbox dictate the energy output and lifespan of a wind turbine. Problems with the nacelle gears and fluid levels in the gearbox are the primary focus of any wind turbine maintenance schedule.