Many of the turbines installed in the last decade are now coming out of warranty, and as a result, U.S. operations-and-maintenance (O&M) spending is poised to double to nearly $6 billion by 2025, according to IHS Energy Research. That was one sobering prediction from Muir Data Systems CEO James Parle at the recent Reliability Workshop sponsored by Sandia National Labs.
Proper maintenance management of utility-scale wind is difficult because wind plants tend to be located in remote areas, are highly distributed, have a significant number of moving parts, operate in harsh environments, and present numerous safety concerns. “These challenges differentiate wind O&M from traditional fossil fuel based electricity generation O&M,” says Parle. “These issues are problematic from a reliability standpoint, and are less than ideal for the maintenance crews who keep the turbines working.”
Parle says the demanding nature of wind turbine maintenance management along with many wind turbines coming out of warranty has created a cross roads in which the long term variable costs associated with operations and maintenance can spell the difference between a successful investment in the wind industry and one that fails.
“Wind turbine maintenance management has historically lacked a tailored mobile Computerized Maintenance Management Systems or CMMS. Advances in mobile technology and the reduced cost of cloud-based computing have enabled development of industry-specific mobile CMMS platforms that integrate and streamline maintenance management activities as summarized in the accompanying illustration,” he says.
To know the condition of a remote and complex electromechanical system such as a wind turbine calls for a substantial amount of sensor data. “Typically, this data takes the form of Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition or SCADA information, and more recently, specialized additional sensors, such as vibration and particle counters, for condition monitoring systems. These two sensor-feeds can give a partial understanding of how a wind turbine is aging,” says Parle.
In contrast, the source of CMMS data includes the field technician performing inspections and making repairs. “Using CMMS, the technician would document the details of the physical work performed. This human-generated data can be added to the two existing sensor feeds to significantly increase the understanding of how to best maintain the turbine while minimizing costs. Simply put, CMMS captures what maintenance was done to the turbine by the technician beyond the purview of the SCADA and Condition Monitoring Systems,” he says.
With a modern CMMS, field data can be simultaneously recorded on a mobile electronic device such as a tablet or even a smart phone, stored in a database, post-processed, and communicated to pertinent parties. “Properly implemented CMMS in other industries has demonstrated overall operations and maintenance reductions as high as 50%. “ says Parle. WPE&D