True Cost of maintenance
It comes as no surprise that the wind-power industry’s worth relies on the speed, power and availability of its source. Without wind, the wind turbine would simply not be in business, which means the sector is heavily dependent on natural weather variation to offer maximum value.
The weather, however, doesn’t only dictate the level of power generation produced by wind farms, but also influences the best practices engineers choose to maintain their asset; opening and closing windows of opportunity to perform safe and cost-effective repairs.
Meteorologists can predict atmospheric changes with a remarkable degree of accuracy and it is these measurements that help operators to optimise wind-generated power and its storage.
This is also true of emergency repairs or regulation maintenance checks – such as oil changes – which come at varying levels of expense and frequency, depending on weather constraint and also the quality of the company’s existing lubricant.
Extreme wind conditions in remote locations make it increasingly difficult for maintenance engineers to do their job, so ensuring that oil changes are carried out under controlled measures and emergency repairs are kept to a minimum is just as important for the welfare of personnel as it is for equipment longevity and profitability.
To put this into perspective, the industry spends up to $8 billion on wind-farm maintenance, globally1, and is difficult to plug, especially when forecasts show that this figure is set to increase by 11% annually until 20252.
Around 20% of the budget on any given wind project accounts for operational costs3, including 1,200 incidents of gearbox failure, which sets the industry back $300,000-500,000 per breakdown4.
Considering the high number of issues that need the attention of the power operator, it can be easy to look past the financial incentives of optimising operations and the benefits they present the company’s bottom line.
An example of this involves instances of gearbox failure. Where maintenance staff may opt for a lower-grade lubricant to save on short-term cost, this approach risks an increase in the number of oil changes over the wind turbine’s 20-year lifespan, and therefore reduces the wind turbine’s overall efficiency.
Protecting the wind turbine equipment with a cheaper and less-effective lubricant may offer short-term cost-savings but may put the wind turbine at a greater risk of breakdown, which come at a greater expense for the owner/operator in the long-term.
Not only does Shell Lubricants offer a variety of high-performance products that reduce sweetening periods, but its team of experts also help operators to improve the company’s Total Cost of Ownership by advising on best maintenance practices.
While wind speed is key to wind power, it also summons the need for smarter engineering – including the use of high-performance lubrication – designed to increase the overall efficiency and preservation of the wind turbine.
1 Wind Turbine Operations and Maintenance Market Analysis By Application (Onshore and Offshore), By Region (North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Latin America, MEA), And Segment Forecasts, 2018 – 2025. June 2017. Grand View Research.
2 Wind Turbine Operations and Maintenance Market Analysis By Application (Onshore and Offshore), By Region (North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Latin America, MEA), And Segment Forecasts, 2018 – 2025. June 2017. Grand View Research.
3 Wind Turbine Condition Monitoring: State-of-the-Art Review, New Trends, and Future Challenges. Pierre Tchakoua, René Wamkeue, Mohand Ouhrouche, Fouad Slaoui-Hasnaoui, Tommy Andy Tameghe and Gabriel Ekemb. Energies 2014, 7, 2595-2630; doi:10.3390/en7042595.
4 Special Report: Grinding Gearboxes – Better Call Roy, 2 February 2014, Roy Munoz, G-Cube