Jessica Lenz | 03/09/2022
Prevention of damage to wind turbines
Wind turbines are very complex systems whose technology and design are becoming more and more comprehensive due to ever increasing efficiency and performance. In addition, the risk of damage is rising: from gearbox damage to electrical damage to lightning or even fire damage. These can result in long downtimes for the operator and high costs for the insurance companies, which could possibly be avoided. In the meantime, design and calculation methods as well as optimized manufacturing processes are in use, which reduce the risk. Nevertheless, damage to wind turbines can and will occur again and again. Condition monitoring systems (CMS systems) and regular maintenance/inspections are the most likely preventive measures.
Damage to wind turbines
There are some damages on wind turbines, which occur frequently or cause high costs. These are caused by special loads such as turbulence, tower vibrations, a high number of load changes or overvoltage. The gearbox, the rotor, the electrical system, the rotor blades or the tower are affected. Severe damage is often caused by lightning strikes or fires. There are ways how some of the damages can be detected early or even avoided.
The use of operational, remote and sensor monitoring systems has become essential. These can be used either by the operator, the technical operations manager or external service providers. Frequencies, vibration signals, temperature or even pressure are measured via installed sensors and documented in the system. Any deviations or irregularities are reported immediately or within regular reporting, depending on the severity. The systems ensure that those responsible are provided with all relevant data on the condition of the wind turbine. This allows damage to the monitored components to be detected at an early stage and unscheduled downtime to be avoided.
Regular maintenance and inspection
When it comes to preventing damage to wind turbines, regular maintenance and inspection are key factors in addition to permanent, technical condition monitoring. Since both visual inspection and lightning protection measurement mean a shutdown of the turbine and thus a loss of production, these are not popular with operators. Nevertheless, the regularity in preventing or detecting damage at an early stage is crucial here. Especially with regard to the availability of industrial climbers, drones are increasingly being used. In the meantime, operators, technical managers or even surveyors can carry out these inspections on their own thanks to autonomously flying drones. Even lightning protection measurement can be carried out contactless by drone with the help of a highly innovative new procedure. Due to the fact that the time of the inspection can be freely selected and the required time is significantly lower when using such innovative technologies, the production downtime is reduced to a minimum. Inspections can still be carried out more often with less downtime and reduced costs. Potential damage can be detected in time and repaired if necessary.
Optimal prevention of damage to wind turbines succeeds with the use of modern monitoring systems and innovative inspection technologies. Maintenance operations can be planned, unscheduled downtimes are reduced and maintenance costs are lowered.