AGING WIND TURBINES: PAY NOW OR PAY MORE LATER

In a recent article on website North American Wind Power, author John Clark cites statistics from the American Wind Energy Association that nearly $40 billion worth of wind installations in the U.S. came out of warranty in 2011.  Another 50% of the country’s wind turbine generator fleet is behind in original equipment manufacturer (OEM)-recommended maintenance schedules.

Wind turbines, generally located in wide-open, stormy places where Mother Nature takes her toll, operate under tremendous stress and beg for a regular maintenance plan to achieve the life expectancy of the fleet.  Author Clark, president of Signal Energy Construction, a subsidiary of Barnhart, warns of a looming crisis.

In addition to the woeful maintenance statistics of the existing wind fleet, there is an anticipated uptick in new turbine construction in 2014. Therefore, wind turbine owners can expect that increased demand and limited availability for services will drive up the cost of labor and equipment.

On the other hand, owners that properly service equipment according to OEM-approved guidelines can lower costs significantly, increase production, extend the life of turbines and avoid cost increases over the life of a project.

There are three broad categories for wind turbine maintenance:

Emergency maintenance. The “fix it when it breaks” model, is the least efficient and most costly because it drives up the expense of repairs that might be prevented through properly scheduled maintenance.  The downtime is costly as well.

Scheduled maintenance – Conducted on a time frame recommended in the OEM manual, it includes any kind of maintenance within the turbine manufacturer’s specs.   Scheduled maintenance identifies unexpected major component replacements before they become critical to the turbine’s operation.

Preventive maintenance can target issues on several different turbines. In that way, the cost per repair decreases when manpower and equipment are mobilized.    For example, if mobilization of a main lift crane to repair one turbine can exceed $200,000, if four turbines are serviced at the same time, the cost per turbine is reduced 25%.

Barnhart has developed a reputation for excellence, innovation and reliability in the renewable energy field.   Our services range from ongoing maintenance and repair to site erection and mechanical completion.

About Meredith Portman

Meredith Portman is a freelance writer who specializes in heavy industry, healthcare and education.
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