With many wind farms now well established, operators must consider the provision of maintenance and examine the latest component technology available to protect their investment and ensure continued reliability, warns industry expert Phil Burge…
With the attraction of clean, free renewable energy, wind power is one of the fastest growing energy sources and today one of the most economical solutions for electricity generation. This is offset in part due to the increasing costs of retrieving fast depleting non-renewable fossil fuel sources and the possible health risks and external costs of nuclear power, as highlighted by recent incidents at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
With rising costs in energy production, the economic and environmental benefits of harnessing energy from renewable sources has pushed wind power up the political agenda, becoming the focus of investment and interest that has seen wind turbines literally spring up around our coast and countryside. Now that wind power is no longer seen as an optional alternative but a vital component in fulfilling the demand for energy, the need to support the industry with the latest innovative and robust technology is greater than ever before.
Overcoming extreme conditions
The downside of wind farms and one of the biggest challenges faced by operators is undertaking servicing and maintenance of the turbine. The operation and maintenance of offshore wind farms is far more difficult and expensive than the equivalent onshore wind farms. In particular, offshore conditions dictate operations and accessibility for routine servicing and maintenance, and with many original manufacturers’ warranties now reaching expiry this is a major concern for wind farm operators. During harsh winter conditions, a complete wind farm may be inaccessible for a number of days due to sea, wind and visibility conditions. Even when accessed, overhauling installations requires specialist lifting equipment to change out major components. This has led to increasing demands in the development of wind turbine systems and components that offer optimised long term performance and reliability.