Wind turbine attrition is OK. That is one of the messages Gamesa, with guest DNV GL, discussed at a presentation during the opening day of AWEA’s WINDPOWER 2015 Conference & Exhibition in Orlando, Florida. The key is preparing for wind turbine wear in the early stages of a turbine’s life through proper O&M assessments and condition monitoring. In some cases it’s possible to upgrade components before they fail, essentially converting the old into new.
In the U.S., roughly 900 wind farms are operating and 8.4% of those turbines are between 10 and 15 years old. This is the age when project owners tend to think about the operating expenses of their fleet and future O&M costs. About 90% of today’s operating turbines are less than 10 years old, which means a host of aging turbines are expected in the near future.
In fact, Gamesa predicts that over the next five years, the proportion of wind assets in the U.S. aged 10 to 15 years will increase from ~10% to ~50%. Extending the economic life of existing wind farms presents owners with an opportunity to maximize their investment and long-term profitability.
Age alone, however, isn’t the only factor to consider when assessing turbines. A 20-year turbine lifetime doesn’t automatically equate with fatigue or component failure. It’s important to monitor fatigue accumulation over time and do a better job collecting that data than in the past using a comprehensive analysis of maintenance records, site reports, and SCADA data. A proactive rather than a reactive approach can lead to extending a turbine’s economic life.
To meet the needs of aging turbines, Gamesa offers Life Extension, an industry-approved service that can safely increase design life by 10 years making old turbines much like new again. Their scope of analysis evaluates the impact on each structure from the blades, towers, and foundations, to the electrical components, loads analysis, and even the nacelle covers.
The aim of the Life Extension program is to:
- Optimize and extend revenue streams while minimizing and containing long-term O&M costs,
- Offer specific engineering validation and analysis customized to each wind farm,
- Enhance the efficiency of late-stage turbine expenditures,
- Utilize existing hardware, infrastructure, and agreements whenever possible,
- Opportunity to upgrade aging components.
Although age and attrition are inevitable, it’s now possible to prolong turbine life from 20 to 30 years in many cases. Gamesa’s Life Extension provides owners of wind assets a way to maximize revenue generation while containing O&M costs of an aging fleet. They can work with wind farm owners to customize the services needed to ensure a healthy wind investment for as long as possible.