- Published: 04 August 2008 04 August 2008
Frontier Pro Services of Banning, California conducted an informal survey of approximately 75 wind farm operators in the United States.
Designed to assess the specific operation and maintenance service needs of wind energy operators, the survey reveals potentially serious threats to wind farms owing largely to the industry-wide shortage of qualified turbine technicians. Many wind farm operations and maintenance teams are so resource constrained that they are barely able to keep up with the unscheduled maintenance repairs their wind turbines require to generate electricity. Even regular, scheduled preventative-maintenance like oil changes and gearbox lubrication (services that are often still under warranty) are falling behind as manufacturers face similar resource struggles related to the shortage of qualified technicians. Gearbox failures account for the largest amount of downtime, maintenance, and lose of power production. These costly failures can total 15-20% of the price of the turbine itself, making wind turbine and gearbox maintenance a high priority. If oil is not properly monitored and replaced as needed, bearing and gear wear will lead to more serious and costly damage to the drive train. When a US$ 1,500 bearing fails unnoticed, it can lead to production loss and revenue loss including an unscheduled replacement of a US$ 100,000 dollar gearbox and a unscheduled crane cost of up to US$ 70,000 to access the failed components.