What Is Wind Farm Maintenance?

January 11, 2022

Wind Farm Maintenance

Wind farm maintenance is performed on turbines within wind farms and wind power plants used to produce electricity. Wind farm maintenance refers to activities intended to keep wind turbines in working order at all times. It includes checking system connections, lubricating moving parts, and quickly resolving equipment malfunctions before developing significant problems.

Summary

Electric power providers, industrial equipment repair services, and utility system construction companies rely on wind farm maintenance. The farms range in scope from a few dozen to several hundred turbines scattered across extensive areas. Wind energy is the United States of America’s largest source of non-hydroelectric renewable energy—followed by solar and thermal. 

According to the U.S. Energy and Information Administration, the wind energy industry generated 300 terawatt-hours of electricity in 2019. Due to its major contribution to U.S. utility infrastructure, the expensive assets require preventive maintenance to avoid costly downtimes. As Reuters reported, wind farms typically spend between $42,000 and $48,000 on O&M during their first decade of operation. 

“Equipment maintenance and operating costs are increasing significantly, leading operators to focus on performance optimization and cost management,” Maxwell Cohen, senior research analyst at IHS Markit, says. “The number of utility-scale wind turbines installed in the U.S. is forecast to rise from 50,000 currently to around 70,000 by 2030.”

Training and Certification for Wind Farm Maintenance 

Wind technicians perform wind farm maintenance. Also known as windtechs, they specialize in installing, inspecting, maintaining, and operating wind turbines. With its specialized nature, the role is in high demand. The Office of Energy and Renewable Resources listed windtech as the fastest-growing, U.S-based occupation of the decade in 2016. Wind technician job opportunities are expected to double by 2030. 

Aspiring windtechs have several training program options available to them. Both community colleges and universities equip students with equipment maintenance, industrial safety, and technology skills. Seasoned maintenance professionals can also enroll in certification programs such as Wind Technician Certification by General Electric and ETA International Small Wind Installer Certification to progress career-wise.

Examples of Wind Farm Maintenance 

Unsurprisingly, preventive maintenance (PM)  is especially crucial in wind farm maintenance. Proactive maintenance extends turbine life spans, maintains reliability, and reduces the likelihood of more expensive repairs due to equipment failure. For this reason, most wind farms have adopted advanced predictive maintenance (PdM) strategies to ensure operations keep running. 

Predictive maintenance is an advanced form of preventive maintenance that involves installing sensors on critical equipment. The sensors collect real-time data regarding turbine vibration, lubrication, foundation displacement, and temperature levels that are then communicated to a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS). The software is then used to schedule maintenance work orders, keep inspection and service records, and analyze opportunities for O&M cost savings. 

Put simply, it’s much cheaper to prevent failure than to operate a wind turbine until it breaks down. Regular maintenance checks and parts’ lubrication generally occur every six months to keep turbines running in peak conditions. 

FAQ: Wind Farm Maintenance 

How Much Does a Wind Turbine Technician Earn?

The average salary of a wind turbine technician is $51,338 per year, according to Payscale. Siemens is currently listed as the highest paying wind farm maintenance company, paying its technicians about $27 per hour.

What Are the Components of a Wind Turbine?

A wind turbine has three main parts: the tower, nacelle, and rotor. The tower contains lighting and cable lifts. The nacelle houses generating components such as the gearbox, shafts, yaw drive, and generator. The rotor includes the blades that connect to the pitch drive and the hub.

What Is the Average Lifespan of a Wind Turbine?

The average lifespan of a wind turbine is 20 years. However, with good maintenance, a turbine can last up to 30 years or more.

What Are the 4 Types of Wind Farm Maintenance?

Most organizations practice a combination of several different types of maintenance. While there are several distinct methodologies, the four most commonly discussed types of maintenance are: 

  • Corrective Maintenance: A maintenance strategy that involves taking planned or unplanned corrective actions after equipment issues occur. The goal is to return broken assets to operational capacity. 
  • Preventive Maintenance (PM): A maintenance strategy that involves completing scheduled maintenance tasks to keep assets in optimal working condition, curb unplanned downtime, extend life cycles, and reduce costs associated with equipment failure. 
  • Condition-Based Maintenance (CBM): An advanced form of PM that uses condition-based diagnostic measurements (e.g., vibrations, temperature, ultrasounds) to predict equipment failure. Operational managers use CBM intervals to make more reliable, efficient, and cost-effective decisions about when to perform maintenance tasks. 
  • Predictive Maintenance (PdM): An advanced form of PM, and an even more advanced form of CBM, that relies on sensors to relay real-time data in combination with predictive algorithms to precisely predict future breakdown times. Though many resources use the terms PdM and CBM interchangeably, they are not the same. While CBM often includes the same sensor-based technology as PdM, it doesn’t utilize predictive technology. 

What Are the Benefits of Wind Farm Maintenance?

As previously mentioned, wind farm maintenance helps optimize O&M costs, improve productivity, and extend the lifespan of wind turbines.

Conclusion

Wind turbines require regular lubrication and maintenance to work optimally. They require a proactive maintenance approach to avoid unnecessary downtime. Several learning institutions provide training programs that equip maintenance workers with wind farm maintenance skills.

Caroline Eisner
Caroline Eisner
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