Wind sector servicing
03 March 2021
With the onshore and offshore wind sector providing an increasing amount of the UK’s energy requirements and contributing to a steadily rising renewable energy percentage, Gary Husband looks at the growing servicing needs, both on- and off-shore
In a speech last year the Prime Minister committed to all UK homes being powered entirely by offshore wind energy by 2030. This will require the equivalent of one turbine a week to be installed for the next decade to achieve the necessary 40GW. All these wind turbines need regular maintenance to ensure they are generating maximum amounts of energy and, with situated in increasingly remote and hostile environments, experienced engineering know-how is essential.
In fact, it is thanks to this engineering expertise that quite a lot of the older ‘legacy’ wind turbines (eg of units around 600 kW) have been given an extra lease of life with five-year plus extensions beyond their previously anticipated 20-year service lives. Winergy, a Flender brand, has been a major manufacturer of wind turbine gear units since the early 1980s – and it may surprise some to know that this type of renewable energy is actually now entering its fourth decade.
Having extensive knowledge of a wide range of wind turbine OEM technologies, both onshore and offshore, is crucial. Around 40% of all wind turbines worldwide contain Winergy gear units, and here at Leeds we are an approved Winergy overhaul service centre. This means we are often working on not just our own wind gear units, but also on those of other manufacturers, requiring a significant amount of tooling, skill sets and experience. Rapid mobilisation is also required as no operator wants a turbine down for long.
Our growing onsite service team have all the right qualifications, skills and experience to operate on both onshore and offshore wind turbines, to carry out uptower inspections and repairs, and for many others the units are brought to the Leeds facility for servicing and repairs. This can include work to gearboxes, main shafts and generators – the complete drive train – and obviously necessitates having suitable workshop facilities and tooling to carry out the work. Many of the different turbine OEMs in operation have their own unique designs and set-ups, even though a large percentage of these units contain Winergy gearboxes.
For many operating wind farms, ongoing service contracts provide peace of mind, especially where there are large numbers of wind turbines and power losses or drops must be kept to a minimum.
Condition monitoring is an area growing in popularity, especially where wind turbines are based in difficult environments. By constantly monitoring remotely for excessive vibration and other key indicators, operators can employ on-site service and maintenance personnel as required, avoiding breakdowns and also unnecessary inspections. Offshore in particular, these inspections of necessity incorporate a huge number of safety-related requirements before the engineer even opens the unit up, and they are often weather-dependent too. When condition monitoring is combined with multi-brand service contracts 24/7 support is ensured, a significant reassurance to the operator.
Through an impressive track record in high service standards, fast responses (summary reports are often provided on the same day as the inspection), available gear unit upgrade solutions and ongoing support, building trust with customers frequently leads to additional work. By maximising the efficiency and performance of existing wind turbine equipment, process improvements can also take place, such as improved availability and planning.
The growth in renewable energy and the UK’s increasing dependence on it means that wind turbines have to be operating at maximum efficiency and capacity at all times. This can only be achieved through better monitoring, regular scheduled maintenance, fast service response and forward planning.
Gary Husband is wind service sales manager at Winergy-Flender UK