Jason Shelby/General Manager Service/UpWind Solutions Inc./www.upwindsolutions.com
If there is one piece of advice you should take away from this article, it’s to plan your End of Warranty (EOW) inspections to ensure there is enough time to inspect all turbines, analyze results, and file claims well in advance of the end-of-warranty date. This cannot be stressed enough because many Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) will not process a warranty claim submitted after the end of the specified warranty period. By planning an EOW inspection well in advance, you maximize the understanding of your wind turbines and any safety, quality, or technical issues they may have. In turn, this knowledge will let you take full advantage of the value in your turbine’s warranty.
Good planning will afford the inspection team an appropriate window of time to complete the inspections in full, taking time to address critical findings in detail and producing high quality reports that give the owner ample time to report back to the OEM in an appropriate manner and before the end of the warranty period.
To optimize EOW inspections, it is good practice to perform baseline inspections at the time the turbines are first commissioned and placed into operation. This baseline allows comparing the current condition of the asset (at EOW) to the condition of the units at commissioning. It is an excellent way to track changes and justify claims that may stem from unusual wear and tear, or unexpected failures.
Inspecting cleanliness and upkeep
An EOW inspection is also an inspection of the Operation & Maintenance (O&M) service provider. In the more than 3,000 EOW inspections we have performed, we have found that a clean turbine usually reflects a well maintained turbine. Trash on the decks, grease and oil spills, missing torque stripes, and so on are usually indications of underlying issues with asset health.
Make sure to include general cleanliness and upkeep in your EOW inspection scope of work because this is a good indicator of potential future problems.
Each technology operates and fails differently
It’s important that an EOW inspection service provider understands your particular technology and has experience performing inspections to focus on common failure modes and damage levels. Each turbine technology can have unique issues down to a component level. An experienced EOW inspector knows what to look for.
Establishing a baseline
Not all warranty claims are approved and not all damage warrants a warranty claim. Regardless, you still own the asset and have a vested interest in making sure you’re in control of future planned and unscheduled maintenance and its associated cost.
The EOW inspection provides a baseline assessment of the turbine’s condition going into the post-warranty period. This baseline assessment educates the asset owner and identifies specific units and components that could need inspections in the future and possibly a reduced interval between maintenance activities. When correctly applied, an extensive asset-knowledge base may even lengthen the maintenance cycle. The key is understanding the asset condition in full and planning accordingly so that the baseline assessment provides for effective planning of maintenance programs going forward.
Lots of data from an EOW inspection
Each turbine inspection produces a lot of data points and many images that must be presented and stored for future use. Ensure that you can use the end result delivered by your EOW inspector to the fullest extent.
For example, reports should come in the form of a user-friendly spreadsheet or online format, or both that allow filtering data in ways that suit your needs and systems. Review the EOW inspection service provider’s reporting format to ensure that you can easily use their final deliverable to make warranty claims and punch lists. This is particularly true for full turbine EOW inspections.
Several EOW inspection providers store data in a central repository and make it readily available to key personnel, even years after the inspection. If your EOW inspectors only deliver the report in a basic format, such as a spreadsheet or pdf, take care to never store this valuable data on just one or two individual’s computers. The EOW-inspection data is a valuable long-term record and should be treated as such.
Conditions that warrant immediate action
A few EOW inspection findings are so severe that immediate action should be taken before the turbine returns to service. Ensure that the inspection-service provider has an established process in place for situations with significant human or equipment risk.
In some cases, degradation may be so severe that returning the turbine to service has potential to damage property and even hurt people. An effective reporting process for raising issues, along with a well communicated safety message, can save money and lives. WPE