The remote nature of wind farms means that operators need to have an effective maintenance strategy to avoid downtime and inefficiency
With more than 7,000 wind turbines both onshore and offshore, the UK relies on wind power to provide around 11% of its annual energy supply. This equates to around 9.5 million homes every year, which means that a single turbine powers, on average, 1,342 homes.
Any downtime for these turbines results in a significant loss of revenue for the operator, which means that any maintenance needs to be planned thoroughly and carried out in an efficient manner to minimise any loss of energy generation.
When it comes to maintenance however, the remote location of most wind farms (coupled with the fact that the vast majority are unmanned) causes a number of logistical issues.
“ With wind farm maintenance, partnering with a supplier that can provide a quick and reliable delivery service is vital” Chris Cruise, Industry Sector Manager, RS”
“Most farms are based in rural or offshore locations – usually not close to cities or logistics hubs – which means that engineers have to drive to get there, often taking a full day to perform maintenance,” explains Chris Cruise, Industry Sector Manager at RS. “Once they get there they need to have all the tools, parts and equipment necessary to carry out the work. If any key element is missing, the entire trip has been wasted and will need to be done again.”
The efficiency of planned maintenance simply comes down to the organisational skills of a wind power operator’s engineers, since the work can be scheduled for the best possible time in terms of shutting turbines down, while all the equipment can be arranged in advance. However, unplanned maintenance can potentially result in significant costs to the business.
Cruise believes that there are three key ways in which wind power companies can minimise the impact of unscheduled maintenance: “First, it’s worth operators investing in IoT technology, or telemetry, on as many elements of their turbines as possible so that it can provide as much data as possible to help inform the engineers of what’s wrong before they set out,” he says. “Secondly, many engineers will ‘over index’ when they take parts and tools in their van so that they are covered for as many eventualities as possible.
“ Maintaining off shore wind farms, involves much greater logistical complexity and cost” Chris Cruise, Industry Sector Manager, RS”
“Lastly, partnering with a supplier that can provide a quick and reliable delivery service is vital,” he adds. “Specifically with MRO, it’s often the safety equipment, specialist tools and testing equipment that engineers need to have in place or they will not be able to do the job. In some cases, RS can deliver products to customers on a same-day basis within a specific time window, which could potentially save significant expense.”
The importance of getting the right equipment in place is further increased when wind turbines are located offshore. “Maintaining offshore wind farms, involves much greater logistical complexity and cost,” says Cruise. “This means that any mistakes or delays will have a bigger cost impact, so it’s essential that engineers have all the equipment when and where they need it.”