Wind Turbine Maintenance: Keep Your Wind Turbines Running Smoothly

Proactive and predictive maintenance is critical in wind turbine management. Understand the steps involved and the tools required to keep wind turbines in good working order.

Ingenieros de mantenimiento de aerogeneradores

What is Wind Turbines Maintenance?

Wind turbine maintenance refers to the process of keeping wind turbines running smoothly. It includes routine inspections, cleaning, lubrication, and repairs.

Wind turbine maintenance tasks include turbine inspection, turbine cleaning, turbine lubrication, and turbine repair.

Turbine inspection is the most common type of maintenance. Inspectors typically use various tools to inspect the blades, nacelle, tower, and generator. They may also take measurements and photos.

Cleaning involves removing debris from the blades, nacelle, tower, and generator, among other things. Cleaning is usually done manually, although some companies offer automated cleaning systems.

Lubrication involves applying grease or oil to various parts of the turbine. Lubrication helps prevent wear and tear, keeping the turbine working properly.

Repairs include replacing damaged parts, such as blades, bearings, and gearboxes. Repairs are often performed during scheduled maintenance visits.

Importance of Wind Turbines Maintenance

Turbines are a valuable renewable energy source. However, they require regular maintenance to keep them running smoothly.

When wind turbines break down, they can cause serious property damage and injure people. So it’s essential to maintain your wind turbine regularly. It includes inspecting blades, bearings, gearboxes, and generators.

What Maintenance Do Wind Turbines Need?

Wind turbines need maintenance just like any other machine. But unlike most machines, wind turbines require regular maintenance specifically designed for them because of how they’re made and because they’re exposed to extreme weather conditions.

Here are some common maintenance tasks:

  • Check the blades regularly for cracks and damage – Blades can crack over time due to exposure to sunlight, extreme temperatures, and corrosion.
  • Inspect the gearbox regularly for wear and tear – Gearboxes can fail after prolonged use.
  • Make sure the generator is working correctly – Generators can stop working due to mechanical problems or electrical issues.
  • Check the bearings regularly for signs of wear – Bearings can become damaged if they aren’t appropriately lubricated.
  • Clean the nacelle regularly – Nacelles collect dust and debris from the air, which can cause serious health risks.
  • Keep the rotor free of vegetation – Vegetation can get caught in the rotor blades and cause them to break off.
  • Check the wiring regularly for damage – Wiring can short out and cause fires.
  • Change the oil regularly – Oil helps keep the gears moving smoothly.

How Long Do Wind Turbines Last?

Wind turbines last anywhere from 20 years to 100+ years, depending on the turbine type. The average lifespan of a wind turbine is 30 years.

Today’s turbines use modern materials and technology, making them more robust than ever. However, older turbines may need some maintenance work to keep running smoothly.

Some common problems include worn bearings, broken blades, and cracked gearboxes. Fixing these problems is relatively easy, but maintenance checks are essential to prevent costly repairs later.

Which Wind Turbine Parts Fail Most Often?

There are many parts of a wind turbine that fail over time, leading to an unscheduled stoppage. The most common failures include bearings, blades, gearboxes, and generators.

Bearings are the most expensive part of a wind turbine because they’re responsible for transmitting power from the rotor to the tower. They wear out over time, causing the turbine to lose efficiency.

Blade failures occur when blades break off during operation. Blades are made of composite materials, which means they’re prone to failure.

Gearbox failures happen when gears inside the gearbox wear down. Gears are usually made of steel, which makes them susceptible to corrosion.

Generators are the heart of a wind turbine. Generators convert mechanical energy into electrical energy. Over time, generators become worn and inefficient.

How Often Do Wind Turbines Require Maintenance?

Most wind turbines require maintenance at least once every two years. However, some wind turbines need maintenance more often than others. Wind Turbine Technicians, or “Windtechs” as they are called in the industry, maintain wind turbines.

Maintenance frequency varies depending on many factors, including the type of turbine, its age, where it’s installed, and the amount of wind energy produced.

Some types of wind turbines require more frequent maintenance than others. For example, horizontal axis wind turbines (HAWTs) usually require more maintenance than vertical axis wind turbines (VAWTs).

Horizontal axis wind turbines are designed to capture wind energy from any direction. Their use is most common in areas with strong winds, such as coastal regions. Vertical axis wind turbines are designed for use in areas with weaker winds, such as inland regions.

Maintenance Strategies

Wind turbine operators use preventative and predictive maintenance to keep their machines working efficiently and as part of their warranty coverage.

Preventative Maintenance

An effective method of preventing problems is through preventive maintenance. Regular inspections and routine maintenance can help detect potential issues before they become major issues. 

Predictive Maintenance

Predictive maintenance is a strategy that helps prevent costly breakdowns by predicting potential problems before they happen. It’s based on the idea that if we know what might go wrong, we can fix it before it happens.

Predictive maintenance uses sensors to monitor a turbine’s various aspects, including speed, temperature, vibration, and other factors. Software programs can analyze these data points and recommend whether a turbine needs repair. 

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How Does Poor Maintenance Affect a Turbine?

If a wind turbine is poorly maintained, it may not be able to produce electricity at total capacity. The turbine owner must pay for electricity produced when the turbine is not operating at its peak performance.

It is called curtailment. Curtailment occurs because the wind turbine cannot generate enough power to meet the electrical needs of the grid. The cost of this electricity is passed along to the consumer.

Curtailment costs vary depending on the type of wind turbine and the amount of energy generated. Some turbines have a fixed price per kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity generated, while others have a variable rate based on the prevailing wholesale electricity price.

Many factors influence curtailment rates, including the number of hours the turbine operates each day, the average wind speed during those hours, and the amount of energy the turbine generates.

To avoid curtailment, wind farm owners should keep their turbines well maintained. They should inspect them regularly and perform any necessary repairs or maintenance before they begin producing electricity.

They should also ensure that their turbines operate at maximum efficiency. They should use only quality components, maintain the blades properly, and monitor the entire system’s operation.

What Affects the Maintenance Cost?

In addition to being a source of renewable energy, wind turbines are also a major investment. As such, it’s essential to understand the costs associated with maintaining these machines. The annual maintenance cost of a wind turbine varies depending on its size, location, and other factors.

To calculate the annual maintenance cost of a particular wind turbine, you must consider the following variables:

  • Size – Smaller turbines tend to require less maintenance than larger ones. However, smaller turbines typically generate less power, so they aren’t always ideal for everyone.
  • Location – Wind turbines near cities and urban areas tend to experience higher levels of wear and tear than those in rural areas.
  • Turbine age – Older turbines tend to require more frequent maintenance than newer models.

Once you’ve calculated the annual maintenance cost of your wind turbine, you can compare it to the price of electricity generated from the machine. It can give you a clearer idea of whether the investment is worth it.

What Determines a Wind Turbine’s Lifespan and What Causes Blade Damage?

The longevity of a wind turbine is mainly dependent on the quality of its components and regular maintenance.

The main wind turbine component that wears out over time is the blades. The blades are made of composite materials subject to fatigue and can eventually crack. The leading edge of the blades is also subject to erosion from wind and rain.

Another factor that can damage wind turbine blades is lightning. Lightning can cause a blade to break or catch fire.

In addition to the blades, a wind turbine’s gears, bearings, and other mechanical components can also wear out over time. Proper maintenance can extend the lifespan of these components.

One way to damage a wind turbine is to overload it with too much wind. It can happen when a turbine is poorly designed or when the winds are stronger than expected. Overloading can cause the blades to break and damage other turbine parts.

Another way to damage a wind turbine is to operate it in a too harsh environment. It can include operating in a desert environment where there is a lot of sand and dust in the air. The sand and dust can wear down the components of the turbine and eventually cause it to fail. Turbines in hurricane-prone areas will not last as long as those in more stable locations.

To avoid damaging a wind turbine, following the manufacturer’s recommendations for operating and maintaining the turbine is essential. It is also vital to inspect the turbine regularly and replace any worn parts.

Using SafetyCulture (formerly iAuditor) for Turbine Maintenance

SafetyCulture is a robust tool for turbine maintenance. It helps you keep track of your wind turbines’ health and performance.

It is a cloud-based safety and inspection software that provides real-time monitoring of your wind farm’s energy production, power quality, and reliability. The software tracks everything from blade speed to voltage and current.

With SafetyCulture, you can view detailed reports on each turbine’s performance. It lets you quickly identify any problems and take action before they become serious issues.

This app also gives you access to historical data, allowing you to compare your wind farm’s performance against previous years. It will help you understand your turbines’ performance and when maintenance is required.

Additionally, SafetyCulture offers free checklist templates. These can be customized based on your requirements. Use the templates to:

  • Check the material quality.
  • Set the priority level for issues found during an inspection.
  • Ensure that all safety protocols are followed.
  • Take images of potential hazards or broken equipment and include them in the report.
Rob Paredes
Article by
Rob Paredes
Rob Paredes is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. He is a content writer who also does copy for websites, sales pages, and landing pages. Rob worked as a financial advisor, a freelance copywriter, and a Network Engineer for more than a decade before joining SafetyCulture. He got interested in writing because of the influence of his friends; aside from writing, he has an interest in personal finance, dogs, and collecting Allen Iverson cards.