Rotating machinery including wind turbines are subject to wear and tear over time. Emerson’s Douglas Morris, a member of the alternative energy team, shares how vibration-monitoring equipment can help avoid unplanned downtime and costly maintenance.
The United States’ Upper Midwest boasts some of the richest wind resources in North America and is home to some very large wind generation farms. Avoiding unnecessary and costly maintenance repairs is important to local utilities as they rely on wind as a key part of their generation portfolios.
I became aware of a slick solution by an Emerson business partner, Craig Truempi of Novaspect, who deployed wireless vibration technology on a select set of wind turbines. These wireless vibration transmitters can detect impending bearing, lubrication, and gearbox problems before they fail.
Currently, the monitoring solution includes Emerson’s wireless vibration monitors, a HART wireless mesh network, and a cellular link for remote data collection. Initial data analysis using PEAKVUE technology has proven successful in identifying a bad bearing on one of the generators. Early detection of these problems allows repairs to be carried out on the tower, resulting in an estimated repair savings of $245,000.
By detecting these issues early, planners can schedule a $5,000 bearing replacement on the tower and avoid having to perform a complete replacement of a gearbox or generator. Removal and replacement of a gearbox or generator can total $250,000 due to fact that the repair work takes place at 250 feet or more in the air.
Without these real-time analytics, small problems often go unnoticed until they manifest themselves as large problems. In the case of wind turbines, such large problems typically result in a fifty-fold increase in repair costs. Additionally, such problems can keep a unit offline for extended periods while major parts are secured, cranes are scheduled, and repair workers are mobilized.