emily newton

Advancing Gearbox Inspection Techniques for Wind Turbine Maintenance

Wind turbine gearboxes are essential components for the efficient production of clean energy. As wind energy becomes an increasingly important part of the world’s reliance on renewable power, people are more interested in improving the methods of wind turbine gearbox inspection. Succeeding in that goal could reduce the chances of unexpected downtime, raising the overall return on investment of the wind power infrastructure.
Advancing Gearbox Inspection Techniques for Wind Turbine Maintenance

Relying on Real-Time Monitoring With Smart Sensors

The Internet of Things (IoT) has been a game changer for allowing people to monitor assets remotely through real-time data. The connected sensors allow users to oversee equipment at any time of the day or night. That increased visibility is incredibly convenient for operators of large wind farms.

One cloud-based IoT solution monitored the wind turbine gearbox and other critical components. It utilizes data mining and statistics to enable early problem detection and mitigation. This approach is significantly more efficient and cost effective than previous manual methods.

For example, the IoT can continually measure the gearbox’s oil temperature. That is better than a one-time sample taken during scheduled maintenance. The system also gives color-coded readings of identified problems. Then, people can see at a glance which matters need their attention first.

Although IoT solutions for gearbox inspections have gotten more advanced over the years, they are not new. One 2016 research study involved a gearbox 300 feet off the ground on an offshore turbine surrounded by characteristically rough seas.

A maintenance task required draining the oil from the turbine every 8 to 12 months. However, the researchers believed innovations such as oil formulation improvements and enhanced monitoring for lubrication failures would extend the time frame to six years. The researchers installed viscosity, pressure and humidity sensors, using them to get more comprehensive gearbox oil insights.

The results showed this approach made the turbine operate more efficiently, and accelerated real-time fault detection and diagnosis. Since the research team designed their system to send push notifications to smartphone and email inboxes, it was easy for the appropriate parties to get near-immediate alerts of problems.

Improving the Preparedness of Trainee Inspectors

One of the most frequently cited benefits of the renewable power sector is its job creation potential. Once people have the specialized skills to secure these positions, they can look forward to stable employment in an industry where their demand should only grow for the foreseeable future.

Wherever a person wants to work in the renewable energy industry, they must receive training. Some of that education involves understanding how to work safely at heights. Multiple companies are eliminating much of the risk through simulated training, allowing people to build and sharpen their skills before operating so high off the ground.

For example, Wind-ON is a Turkish company offering borescope inspection simulations for people training to become wind turbine maintenance specialists. Learners get exposure to components such as helical gears and bearings within 1:50 scale construction areas. That highly realistic content helps them gain the fundamental skills and knowledge for thorough gearbox inspections before entering the field.

The company offers borescope inspection training at two levels. People enrolled in the basic level can proceed without prior experience. Then, once they pass it, they can move on to the advanced level.

 Does Training Meet Emerging Needs?

A 2022 global report showed 12.7 million people were working in renewable energy roles. The research highlighted how it was notable that the overall figure rose by 700,000 in one year, despite the more challenging conditions caused by the world’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. It also mentioned people’s growing concerns about climate change significantly drive the job market.

Another finding was that job creation is happening worldwide but is more concentrated in certain places. Nearly two-thirds of the renewable energy roles are in Asia, with 42% of the overall total in China. Then, the European Union and Brazil each accounted for 10% of the available positions, with the United States and India each having 7% of the open roles.

Training will facilitate the recruitment for open positions, plus show people the renewable energy sector could be ideal for helping them make career changes. Simulated training is also advantageous because it removes geographical barriers that could make it difficult or impossible to get the necessary skills.

Simulated training also increases overall safety. Removing fall hazards is the best way to protect people from injuries, which is why fall prevention, restraint and arrest systems are essential. Until people reach that stage — and when they need refresher courses — simulations can fill the gap.

The renewable energy industry can create more jobs than those associated with fossil fuels. However, those interested in such careers must feel they are accessible. Similarly, the people who hire newly trained workers must have the confidence those individuals received the education they need to work safely and efficiently. Training improvements help in both these areas.

Using Fiber-Optic Sensing for Wind Turbine Gearbox Checks

People are particularly interested in improving maintenance methods for offshore wind turbines. The location of that equipment makes it harder to access when things go wrong and monitoring can become more complex, too. Things get even more complicated with floating offshore turbines, which get moored to the seabed. Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Berkeley Lab hope to simplify things with sensing technologies that use fiber-optic cables to work.

Their distributed system would have sensors that detect problems between scheduled maintenance. The team believes this approach would extend the life span of the wind turbines, and make operating and maintenance costs more reasonable. The fiber-optic cables can monitor for strain, vibration and temperature changes. They will also gather data about how the floating wind turbines may affect large marine creatures, such as whales.

The researchers have focused on the wind turbine gearbox and tower for their studies. They identified those components as some of the most expensive, making it especially advantageous to spot problems early. Since this work can help people understand floating turbines' physical and mechanical conditions, the team thinks it could improve materials science. That might mean a damaged wind turbine component could heal itself without human intervention.

The data collected during this research could also feed into digital twins. It might then show engineers, maintenance specialists and other professionals how the wind turbines will likely respond to taxing conditions, such as hurricane-force winds.

Maintaining the Wind Turbine Gearbox Increases Reliability

These are some of the fascinating ways people have explored getting better results with upkeep for the wind turbine gearbox and other vital parts. As they progress in this critical area, the advancements will make wind power an even more attractive clean-energy solution.

Baterías con premio en la gran feria europea del almacenamiento de energía
El jurado de la feria ees (la gran feria europea de las baterías y los sistemas acumuladores de energía) ya ha seleccionado los productos y soluciones innovadoras que aspiran, como finalistas, al gran premio ees 2021. Independientemente de cuál o cuáles sean las candidaturas ganadoras, la sola inclusión en este exquisito grupo VIP constituye todo un éxito para las empresas. A continuación, los diez finalistas 2021 de los ees Award (ees es una de las cuatro ferias que integran el gran evento anual europeo del sector de la energía, The smarter E).