Following last month’s spectacular wind turbine self-destruction, which prompted the Danish climate minister to launch an investigation, 10 wind energy companies have formed a consortium to make wind turbines more reliable. A noble effort, but a little late for the 36 and counting instances of turbine failure, which the folks at the Industrial Wind Action Group are assiduously keeping track of.
Led by Gamesa, a Spanish wind turbine giant, the consortium is calling itself the Reliawind project; it includes wind farm operators like Iberdrola and representatives from academia including Durham University. The European Commission has already put its stamp of approval on the project making it eligible for €5.2 million ($8 million) of funding as a clean, non-nuclear energy source from the EU.
The project is notable because of the definite and quantifiable goals it has laid out for itself. In terms of reliability, the project hopes for a 20 percent increase of “mean time between failures” in offshore and 10 percent in onshore wind. Additionally, the project has set goals for maintenance aiming to halve the “mean time to repair” for offshore and reduce onshore repairs by 20 percent. Though, also notable is the complete lack of a time line.
This is by no means an altruistic venture. The stated objective of improving failure and repair rates is to improve the overall availability of turbine components, which Reliawind hopes to boost to between 97 and 98 percent from a range of 85 to 90 percent for offshore, and to 98 to 99 percent from 97 to 98 percent for onshore. More reliable turbines will mean fewer repairs, allowing for more new turbines to go up, or so Reliawind’s logic seems to go. And doing it in a very public fashion to show the world that wind companies are working to make safer turbines shouldn’t hurt either.
In an attempt to present some analytical rigor, the release lays out an immediate plan of action:
- The determination of a statistical basis for prioritising improvements in component reliability, repair and maintenance strategies.
- The evaluation of all plausible design failures and their consequences using techniques such as FMEA and FTA.
- The proposal of new, more robust designs and intelligent systems for monitoring component health and scheduling preventative maintenance.
The most telling part of this new joint venture is the fact that the most vocal participant is Garrad Hassan, a wind energy consulting firm that designs wind farm modeling software. Perhaps that’s because Hassan will be doing most of the number-crunching and diagnostic work, compiling historical data as well comparative tests of various components.