Operations and Maintenance of Wind Turbines

When maintenance of wind turbines is regularly performed, the expected life span of a wind turbine is about 20 years. This is based on the turbine operating for 66% of the time throughout its lifespan, or about 120,000 hours. This outperforms a gas-powered engine by quite a significant margin. A car engine will typically last for a period of between four and six thousand hours of use. It’s little wonder there is an increasing interest in using wind turbines to generate clean energy.

Low Costs for Maintenance of Wind Turbines

The initial costs for maintenance of wind turbines is usually fairly low. Of course, the need for maintenance and repair will increase as the turbine ages but this is true of all machines. Denmark, a country that has used wind energy for centuries, has studied the differences between older and newer generations of turbines.

They have found that each new generation of wind turbine produced since the mid-seventies has been improved upon in the amount of repair needed to maintain them. This study was based on 5,000 turbines. It should come as no surprise that advances in technology would result in better turbines, but this further increases the appeal of turbines and wind energy as a whole.

However, wind energy companies still face multiple challenges. There are always pressures to increase production at a lower cost. Safety and quality standards must be met and there is always competition from other energy producers. These obstacles are not insurmountable, certainly, but they do require the proper maintenance of wind turbines and other equipment. There are many products, as well as service providers, who can be used to ensure the long and productive life of a wind farm’s turbines. Those who own and operate wind farms must be diligent in choosing the right contractors, engineers and maintenance personnel to work with. The good news is that as the industry grows, so does the number of companies that service wind equipment. This will create competition and generate higher quality service at lower prices.

Good Operation Management is the Key to Success

Hiring a good operations manager is a good first step in ensuring wind farms operate to their full potential. These managers optimize performance to maximize output. What is unique in the wind energy industry is the high number of wind farms that are outsourced. Many wind farms are owned by investment groups and need to contract with third parties in the operations of their farms. This places a lot of responsibility in the hands of the operations manager.

The general responsibilities of an operations manager will include management of the entire site, of course, but also to act as a liaison between all parties, which would include not only the owners, but also contractors, manufacturers, government agencies and owners of any adjacent property.

A general manager is usually the public face of the operation, and as such, needs to have good PR skills as well. The manager will need to conduct periodic site inspections in addition to monitoring site systems remotely. Health and safety issues will also fall under the jurisdiction of the site operations manager, and of course, the repair and maintenance of wind turbines is very important as well.

All these things will be the responsibility of the manager who must perform these duties to produce a high yield while keeping costs down. It is no small task and the right candidate must be highly qualified to do the job.

With good management and a good maintenance plan in place, wind farms can operate at full capacity while remaining cost effective. This further increases the appeal of this valuable clean energy resource.

 photo via www.castrol.com

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