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OPINION: Tiny vibrations to make big improvement in wind farm performance

by RES | May 01, 2020 | Reading time: 4 min

RES’ advanced condition monitoring analysis capabilities saved a wind farm £2.5 million as it detected a fault that could be repaired within the warranty period. This is just one example of many where RES implements its leading operations and maintenance (O&M) capabilities, to save clients millions of pounds worth of money, downtime and inefficiencies.

Using large data sets to analyse asset performance allows RES to be fully prepared to intercept potential failure before it escalates, proactively manage and fix potential faults to keep assets running smoothly and efficiently for optimal performance. Head of analysis and optimisation at RES, Rosa Gindele, talks about how this pioneering technique has been deployed across an array of wind farms and is a huge contributor to helping its clients perform 1% better than industry standard.

It’s the little things that matter


It is not surprising that for someone who spends their working days pouring over data that condition monitoring is something I feel is too easy to take for granted, especially in our increasingly digital world.

However, it is in how we use that data – and what data we gather – that makes the difference between being a good asset O&M partner and being the best in the world. For me, it is paying attention to the tiniest details that makes the biggest difference.

My team’s expertise is to take a mix of vibration data, oil condition and temperature data to analyse the condition of wind turbine main bearings, gearboxes and generators. It’s like giving your car a thorough MOT every second of every day.

These activities are crucial to prolonging the life of the asset and getting as high a yield as possible while minimising unnecessary downtime by identifying issues early and addressing them through targeted maintenance and forecasting. Much like a chip in your car windscreen – fixing it when it’s small could save you from considerable pain later. It is therefore important to be diligent when identifying and dealing with problems to maximise energy production and save our clients’ money and time.

Condition monitoring is not a new concept of course, and many O&M providers have practices in place to try to prevent and fix problems before they become big issues.

Technically-minded wind farm owners and operators, like RES, were already retrofitting CMS on onshore wind turbines over seven years ago, and within the last few years this has become standard issue for new wind turbine models.

While it might seem an innocuous part of that list, vibration analysis is perhaps one of the most accurate early warning tools we use, allowing us to pick up on any potential faults months before they manifest in the form of an unexpected or, at worst, catastrophic failure. Using sophisticated in-house algorithms, our O&M team can identify issues, raise this with the asset management team and implement preventative or restorative measures within planned maintenance times, if possible, or even to replace faulty parts within their warranty period.

The impact of this shouldn’t be underestimated – it could be the difference between a minor inconvenience and a substantial repair bill. Thanks to our significant experience in this area, we have the evidence to back that up.

Saving clients time and money, and maximising production

From our offices in UK, we were able to identify a defect on a Scandinavian wind farm. After an inspection to verify the data, we ensured the manufacturer resolved the issue during the warranty period, resulting in client savings in excess of £2.5 million.

We always aim to be a step ahead. On another site, where the turbine manufacturer was responsible for monitoring the turbines, damage occurred inside a turbine gearbox, causing a complete shutdown of the asset and lost production resulting in £98k of costs. Reviewing the data from the turbine and using our technology and monitoring expertise, we identified the early warning signs and used this to monitor other turbines on the site. A further turbine was identified to also have a defect. The expertise in our team meant the turbine was able to continue operating while replacement work was planned, preventing weeks of downtime, allowing us to plan replacement works in low wind, and save money in components and labour. The component could be replaced and refurbished due to the stage of damage it was at, as opposed to being scrapped in the case of the first turbine.

Performance enhancement: on and offshore

RES has significant experience both in onshore and offshore developments and while onshore wind has been around longer than offshore sites, the lessons being learned from each are helping to dramatically improve the performance of operations and maintenance activities across the technologies.

With vessel hire and tide times to take into account, repairs and maintenance of offshore turbines can be more expensive, which means planning ahead and minimising unplanned downtime is more valuable there than ever. Vibration analysis, then, has been a fantastic tool for these turbines – and in turn the research and investment have helped the industry to perfect our deployment of those techniques on onshore sites.

RES has established the importance of our capabilities among onshore and offshore operators, and how this helps clients perform at least 1% better.

Achieving such big performance gains is only possible due to our team’s years of experience across multiple sites, coupled with a dedication to maximising the potential of renewable energy. RES is committed to improving our capabilities even further, developing new techniques and tools to provide unprecedented accuracy in asset monitoring – helping our clients enhance their output and bring in maximum returns.

Author: Rosa Gindele, Head of Analysis and Optimisation


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