I don’t always get a chance to do much site seeing at these shows, but I did get to see a fair share of Dallas while here for Wind Energy Update’s O&M Summit. On the way to my hotel, the taxi driver informed me that this was where Kennedy was shot (I know, but give me a break. It was before my time). Turns out my hotel was just down the street from these historic sites so I got a chance to check them out. An unobtrusive “X” on the street signifies the position of the President’s car when he was shot. It appears Oswald had fairly good aim to hit Kennedy from the far right window of the Texas School Book Depository about 200 ft away. A white box-shaped memorial commorates the former President, standing slightly off the ground to “represent his spirit.” I’m always slightly critical of these simple monuments (really, a box?), but as I walked inside I found its walls provided shelter from the noisy city street and created a sense of stillness. Kennedy’s name is engraved on a slab of marble at its center, giving a feeling of being one-on-one with him. OK, maybe the artist had something going with the box after all.
The show was hosted by a London-based company. I find there’s just something about the British accent that adds an extra air of pleasantery during the registration and moderation. A representative from Make Consulting started things off by touching on a hot topic: the extension of the PTC. The company says it expects the credit to be renewed, probably for another year, after the November elections. This is an opinion I also heard at the ABB event earlier this week. I have to say it makes sense, as it’s a shame clean energy has become an area of political division when what it really needs is bipartisan support. But I suppose, in this political climate, we should be thankful just to have it renewed in the nick of time.
Make Consulting also noted that many of the turbines online today are becoming outdated. Even 5-years-old models are starting to be considered old-fashioned and could benefit from upgrades or repair—though it’s hard to know how much value doing so holds for availability, and financing isn’t easy.
All about predictive maintenance
Stuart Cameron from Romax Technology discussed a point I’ve heard often lately in the wind industry. He encourages the shift from reactive to predictive maintenance. Out of reactive, preventive, and predictive maintenance, predictive offers the best balance of failure and maintenance costs. Cameron says predictive maintenance offers up to 50% cost reduction over reactive maintenance. This is especially helpful with turbine drivetrains and gearboxes because the industry is seeing an increasing failure rate in these components. Moventas agrees, stressing condition monitoring and understanding what went wrong the to help prevent problems. The representatives also noted that performing maintenance tasks together as much as possible is important to saving time and money.
A bit on blades
The same is true for blade maintenance. Getting up-tower is time consuming and costly, so it makes sense to performance as much maintenance as possible while you’re up there. Wind Energy Solutions (WES) gave a great presentation on blade predicaments and encourages predictive maintenance as well. The company representative recommends starting a database on blades at the end of the warranty and deciding when to do maintenance ahead of time (probably during the non-productive season). He also suggests keeping to a periodic maintenance schedule. For blades, things to check for include rotor and aerodynamic imbalance, which are often due to installing blades at incorrect angles. He says the biggest aging issue with wind blades is leading-edge erosion. The problem can be fixed little by little with protective tapes or coatings.
WES says scheduled maintenance makes common sense because it increases availability, reduces large repairs by focusing on fixing smaller ones first, reduces crane and mobilization cost, and increases aerodynamic efficiency. However, due to lack of data to support cost savings, the WES representative says he has a hard time convincing operators that this is the way to go. The second biggest problem is lightning damage, which can be rectified through lightning-system testing. There are also problems with icing, but without any effective solutions. “If I had the solution, I’d be making some big money,” as he puts it.
There were many other informative sessions including some on improving gearbox reliability, collecting data to improve availability and more. I’d say the conference was definitely worthwhile, and so was my trip to Dallas. But now it’s back to Cleveland for me. After a week away, I’ve learned a lot. But I think I’ve had enough of hotel rooms for awhile.