Wind Turbines: A tall service order to fill
Wind turbine service: a hybrid solution works best.
You probably couldn’t ask for a more difficult service scenario than a wind turbine. Start with the fact that they are constantly exposed to the elements, with offshore turbines facing the added assault of corrosion. The forces applied to the mechanical components can be severe. Intermittent and varying loads on the power-generation assets create harsh duty cycles. Finally, the towers are typically located in hard-to-reach locations.
Faced with these difficulties, it’s little wonder that most turbine owners and operators are eager to avoid any service concerns by partnering with a single-source supplier able to meet all their requirements. Considering the wide range of expertise and skills required, that’s a tall order to fill; and most suppliers come up short. Whether it’s due to a skills gap or concerns about liability, the firms that provide the power-related assets often prefer to avoid doing mechanical maintenance. The organizations that specialize in physical service to the mechanicals lack the electrical knowledge to service the generator, switchgear, transformer and other power devices.
So a common approach is to rely on hybrid service solutions. Farm owners often turn to the power equipment OEM to provide most of the services, accounting for about 70% of the total turbine maintenance needs. The OEMs, in turn, fill in their service capability gaps by establishing partnerships with other organizations. An advantage of contracting with the OEM for service is that they can often also provide system diagnostics and asset optimization. They have the tools and knowledge to assess the efficiency of the power generation system and offer recommendations for improvement.
The remaining 30% of the service need is typically filled by organizations identified by the owner/operator and located close to the turbine location. These suppliers are often the first responders, called to triage turbine trouble and determine whether they can correct the issue or need to escalate it to the contracted, major-service provider.
Wind farm owners would like to find comprehensive service providers but total turnkey solutions are scarce. A common and very workable alternative is to rely on local providers for quick-turn assessment and simple maintenance and to contract with the OEM to fulfill the bulk of the service needs.