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Wind Turbine Component Replacement vs. Wind Turbine Repair

As much as we’d like to think that wind turbines are invincible, they’re not, and eventually both major and minor components reach the end of their designed lifespan. What happens next is crucial.

Should you opt for wind turbine repairs, or is it easier to completely replace the faulty component? 

As you might expect, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question.  But, a few factors can influence whether you need wind turbine repair or full-on component replacement. 

Wind Turbine Electrical Component Failure

Wind turbines are complex, high-voltage machines that transform wind power into electricity. As such, wind turbines are at the mercy of Mother Nature. Weather-related pitch system failures could affect:

  • A subsystem
  • The entire turbine
  • The whole wind park

Common wind turbine component failure could include the generator, pitch actuator, or gearbox. When it comes to replacing components, a turbine owner has the choice to replace the entire component instead of repairing. In general, while a quick repair could be more expensive, it does ensure that your turbine is quickly up, running, and generating income.

What Level of Wind Turbine Repair Is Necessary?

Because wind turbines are complicated machines, their failures are often classified in different levels.

Smallest-Level Repair

Components in this level aren’t the biggest and the baddest, but they are still critical for a wind turbine’s day-to-day function. 

Printed circuit boards (PCBs) are the component to talk about here. Sometimes board components malfunction or get fried. And that’s not good for the rest of your parts, because the board is the brains of the operation. 

Depending on the severity of the damage, some turbine owners might opt for a full board replacement rather than a repair. However, if the problem is only one board connector, why replace the whole thing?

A myth about component replacement is that buying new parts every time something breaks saves money in the long run because the turbine will run more efficiently with new parts. 

That belief is false! Wind turbine repair is often cheaper than a full rebuild, obviously, and it doesn’t affect functionality. Look for companies that offer world-class pitch system board repair rather than ordering all-new components.

Medium-Level Repair 

In this next level, we’re turning up the heat. Literally. 

Medium-level repairs might involve an entire subsystem of the turbine, like a burnt pitch system or capacitor failure. These components are  generally larger and a bit more difficult to replace, so repair is often the way to go.

While blade pitch control adds more power to your towers, routine maintenance is required in order to get the most out of your turbines. 

Opting for a better pitch system reduces your maintenance needs and lowers the overall cost of ownership. The latest generation of Windurance pitch systems are maintenance-free and entirely line replaceable. That means you spend less time troubleshooting and more time pulling money out of the sky. 

Highest-Level Repair

Highest level of repair, lowest level of fun. Here we’re dealing with malfunctions that require a full turbine replacement or a nacelle replacement. 

Putting off repair or replacement can lead to these types of catastrophic malfunctions. Wind turbine owners want to chant the mantra of “repair, repair, repair” for as long as possible, because full component replacements may come with extra costs. 

For example, replacing a nacelle means needing to renegotiate power purchasing agreements with the power company. This is just one step shy of building an entirely new turbine. Reusing the tower section helps keep turbines out of landfills and reduces the overall cost of the energy produced.

Repowering & Wind Turbine Repair

Sometimes, wind turbine owners don’t want to repair the same generator over and over again. That’s reasonable — you wouldn’t want to replace the engine in your car multiple times, would you?

Repowering wind turbines is a tricky business because there’s a lot of technical challenges involved. Repowering a turbine is essentially asking an old tower section to do the work of a new one. There is some heavy lifting to be done from an engineering standpoint to ensure this can be done in a safe and cost effective manner. Typically, an adapter plate needs to be installed to fit a new power plant to an existing tower. 

However, a new program from DWEA encourages the adoption and revitalization of orphaned turbines, turning dead turbines back into a source of renewable energy. More on that in a future post!

Wind Turbine Component Costs | Recycling

Distributed wind farmers don’t always have the income to keep up with wind turbine repair. When their turbines stop working, they’re often abandoned. 

Big wind farm owners are forced to repair or replace components for their wind turbines because generating power is their primary source of income. They have no other option. 

But, back to those abandoned towers. Why aren’t they removed? 

Well, it’s the same reason they weren’t fixed — it costs money. Removing a wind turbine is a lot more work than it seems, and even if it is taken down, then what? It’s difficult to recycle turbine components, particularly the blades because they are often made from wood and fiberglass composite materials..

Designing for Wind Turbine Ease-of-Repair

The way a turbine is designed can influence repair, so some wind turbine manufacturers are making it easier to repair parts rather than replace them. But, the location of a component — or even the whole turbine — can influence repair. 

For example, offshore turbines are more expensive to repair because there are more factors to consider, like technician transportation and weather. The in-and-out costs for offshore turbines are high. Replacing a light bulb is low; replacing a bulb at the top of a tower is higher; replacing a bulb at the top of an offshore tower is higher still

Another example, a bit more down to earth (as opposed to the middle of the ocean) … if the pitch system is inside the hub, it’s hard to access and there are restrictions to when you can go fix it. The ease of access makes repair more favorable. 

But, what makes replacement more favorable? Sometimes it comes down to replacing a component or abandoning the tower. 

Modular component design makes replacement easier and less risky. The industry calls this a line replaceable unit. Wind farmers can make their own replacements with simple instructions and very little time. At the component level, you need someone more trained to know what to replace/repair. With modular components, labor costs are eradicated. 

Wind Turbine Repair Partners

We’re not going to lie: There are a lot of costs involved with fixing up a wind turbine. But when it comes down to replacing a component or repairing, always repair if you have the option. 

When your wind turbine malfunctions, look for a company that has the experience and expertise to offer world-class repairs and replacement. Work closely with a vendor that understands you need your turbine up and running as quickly as possible while not breaking the bank. 

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