When the wind blows...

How predictive maintenance is giving the wind energy sector greater uptime and significantly increasing efficiency.

More effective integration of predictive maintenance data and inventory data from component will be central to mitigating the impact of supply chain challenges on operational wind energy projects. This is according to Windscope – a hardware-free platform for maximising wind turbine health and availability.

At present, the wind industry faces a multitude of pressures in the face of inflation and the after-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disrupted manufacturing and stretched supply chains. Concurrently, several critical issues have emerged within the wind energy supply chain that impact component sourcing and maintenance. As wind turbine fleets age, the need for regular maintenance and component replacement becomes more pressing. However, significantly increased lead times for both resource and hardware are causing significant periods of turbine downtime, increasing operator generation losses.

Inflationary pressures have also resulted in higher costs for both new components and maintenance. Asset owners and operators are grappling with budget constraints, making it imperative to optimise their resources. Furthermore, the growing prominence of OEMs from outside Europe has diversified the market and led to new complications in component sourcing, highlighting a requirement for better foresight to ensure financial performance of wind assets.

To address these challenges and promote efficient management of tight inventory schedules, Windscope has called for closer partnerships in the 3rd party and OEM supply chains, in particular between asset managers and their component suppliers – facilitated by predictive maintenance software platforms.

By gaining access to component health data from operational fleets suppliers will be able to anticipate when these components require replacement, enabling more efficient inventory management and procurement planning. In turn, keeping asset owners updated on a live basis about component stocks and their availability can help to reduce unplanned downtime, and enable asset managers to better allocate resources and prioritise maintenance activities.

"To further the goals of the industry in a challenging economic climate, we need to create a more transparent environment in which predictive analytics can be used to optimise maintenance of assets, taking into account lead times for components and supply shortages. Ability to understand component condition is the keystone around which an optimised supply chain can start to form,” said Joe Donnelly, CEO, Windscope.

“The immediate benefits of such an approach are clear, but there is also huge potential for exciting innovations, such as live tracking of component prices for asset owners, enabling them to make well-informed procurement decisions and secure components at the most favourable pricing. In the future, we could even see automated ordering of components based on condition, further streamlining the procurement process, and reducing the administrative burden on stretched asset management and engineering teams.”

Windscope is currently developing tools to enable asset managers to pair their inventory data with predictive maintenance data. “As the wind energy industry navigates complex supply chain issues, collaboration and innovative solutions are vital to success.” Donnelly added. By creating stronger connections between operators and their supply chain, we can help overcome the challenges posed by aging fleets, increased lead times, and rising costs - ultimately ensuring the continued growth of renewable energy.”

Also showing the value of predictive maintenance in this sector, Maintenance works at the Longpark wind farm will ensure the energy supply of more than 22,000 homes in Scotland.

This onshore wind farm, located south of Stow in the Scottish Borders and inaugurated in 2009, has 19 turbines with a production capacity of 38 MW.

Sarens has actively collaborated in the maintenance of the turbine drive trains, thus contributing to maintaining stable energy production at the facility and avoiding, through preventive maintenance, shutdowns and breakdowns.

The Longpark onshore wind farm, located in the south of Stow in the Scottish borders, has recently undergone preventive and corrective maintenance work on its wind turbines to guarantee the renewable electricity supply already enjoyed by more than 22,000 homes in the region. Inaugurated in 2009, these facilities have 19 Senvion MM82/2050 turbines with an energy production capacity of 38 MW.

Sarens, world leader in heavy lifting, engineered transport and crane rental, and one of the largest specialists in the installation and maintenance of onshore and offshore wind farms, has actively collaborated in these maintenance tasks on behalf of EDF Energy in the dismantling and replacement of the turbine drive trains.

To do so, Sarens brought an LTM1500-8.1 crane unit and a Demag AC220-5 including rehired additional plant equipment, such as towerlights, telehandler and hook, man basket and a mobile welfare unit to the site. Thanks to this equipment, the Sarens engineering team was able to plan the tandem lift operations for the removal of the rotor assembly from the turbine, and subsequently reorient and position the assembly on the crane pad. Finally, the removal and replacement of redundant drive train was performed.

These maintenance tasks, considered strategic to keep in line with the Scottish Government's strategy to achieve zero net greenhouse gas emissions, were a major challenge for the Sarens engineering team, which had to carry out a thorough field survey to correctly position the crane pad to accommodate both cranes and ensure the stability and efficiency of the delivery transport tasks.

In addition, because the orography of the area where the wind farm is located is particularly steep, Sarens used certain additional elements to avoid civil works, thus incurring additional costs for the client. The engineering team on site raised the rotor assembly by utilizing timber mats to raise the component above adjacent gradients in the landscape.

As a sign of Sarens' commitment to the development and maintenance of wind farms in the UK, the company has recently announced the addition of a Liebherr LG1750 750-ton mobile crane to its fleet in the country. This unit, in addition to the crawler cranes and mobile cranes already dedicated to this sector, will reinforce its leadership position in its crane rental, heavy lifting and engineered transport services, with the development of wind energy projects as one of its key growth markets.