Scheduled preventative-maintenance is falling behind: survey

Scheduled preventative-maintenance is falling behind: survey 

Many wind farm operations and maintenance teams are so resource constrained that they are barely able to keep up with the unscheduled maintenance repairs their wind turbines require to generate electricity. This finding has emerged from an informal survey of around 75 wind farm operators in the US.

And even the regular, scheduled preventative-maintenance like oil changes and gearbox lubrication - services that are often still under warranty – are falling behind as manufacturers face similar resource struggles related to the shortage of qualified technicians.

Gearbox failures account for the largest amount of downtime, maintenance, and loss of power production. These costly failures can total 15-20 percent of the price of the turbine itself, making wind turbine and gearbox maintenance a high priority.

Indicating that most gearbox failures are preventable, Jack Wallace, lead technical advisor for Frontier Pro Services, said, "Most gearboxes fail as a direct result of improper lubrication and lack of routine maintenance. With so many turbines behind on inspections and regular service, there is real cause for concern here."

"Damage caused by worn out or compromised gear oil can be irreparable. You can really see that it makes no sense to put off needed oil changes. The cost are too great," added Wallace.

The survey, conducted by Frontier Pro Services, California during the first six months of 2008, focused on serious threats to wind farms owing largely to the industry-wide shortage of qualified turbine technicians.

It was designed to assess the specific operation and maintenance service needs of wind energy operators.