The wind turbine gearbox is the one of the components of the wind turbine most prone to complications. The gearbox is essential to the wind turbine, and increases the rotational speed from a low-speed rotator to a higher speed electrical generator. According to industry experts, wind projects have reported up to a 50 percent premature wind turbine gearbox failure, constituting a large portion of expenses in operating a wind farm. Once a required gearbox fails, wind farm owners will not only have to pay for the costly part, but they will also suffer from a loss of energy production each day the wind turbine is out of commission.
CloudVisit’s Energy Software can help mitigate the problem of gearbox failure. Energy Software can help avoid the expensive investment in new gearbox, as well as minimize wind turbine downtime. Using CloudVisit’s software, highly skilled wind turbine inspectors do not have to be present on site, and can remotely approve inspections. Remote inspections can increase the availability of inspectors, and preventative maintenance can be performed more frequently on high-risk turbines. The increased maintenance for these turbines can help prevent minor damage from leading to substancial damages.
Why Wind Turbine Gearboxes Fail
There are a few reasons for gearbox failure, and we are still learning about the optimal performance of many wind turbine components. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) established its NREAL Gearbox Reliability Collaborative to assess why gearbox failures occurs and what steps may be taken to address the failures.
From this research, we have learned some of the factors contributing to failures include:
- Failures in bearings
- Axial cracking
- Contamination of lubricants
- Improper bearing settings
- Foreign particles in a gear
CloudVisit’s Energy Software Can Help Inspectors Foresee Gearbox Failure and Determine Appropriate Actions
One way to predict and mitigate these failures is to gain reliable data on operations as well as historic failure rates. CloudVisit’s Energy Software provides enhanced data analysis and customized reporting. Historic data can be examined to influence future investments as well as current maintenance procedures.
For example, the loading of a turbine’s drivetrain depends on its location in the wind farm, as well as the terrain. Torque reversals resulting from wind gusts, high wind shutdowns, grid faults, resonant vibration, and other factors can be particularly damaging to bearings. Micropitting, a form of surface fatigue, can result. If left untreated, micropitting can lead to tooth-root breakage and bearing failure, which is a costly repair.
CloudVisit’s Energy Software can be used to produce customized reports based off a wind turbine’s location. It can also be used to predict how often a turbine may need to be inspected so that turbines can be predictively fixed before costly damage occurs. Using Energy Software, visual inspection documentation, such as video recordings and images, can provide updated information on the status of a gearbox and its components. Wind turbine technicians need only to use a smartphone or tablet to take these images, and can upload them to the cloud for an inspector to review. If there are signs of damage, the inspector can then decide what steps must be taken to repair or replace the component so there is minimal downtime of the wind turbine.
In summary, while the wind turbine gearbox continues to be costly to repair, preventative maintenance can prevent such high failure rates. CloudVisit’s Energy Software can address gearbox issues before they become an expensive problem, minimizing large scale repairs and downtime of the turbine. CloudVisit’s software enables the optimization of wind turbines so that we can maximize a sustainable form of energy production in the future.