Insights

Strategic Management of Lubrication Excellence in the Wind Energy Sector

Taken from a Dingo presentation at the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) WINDPOWER Conference and Exhibition

By: Jeff Walkup

The U.S. Wind Energy Industry represents the global market of wind power capacity installations as well as the manufacturing businesses which support the Industry. There are global requirements to meet clean energy demands of the 21st Century and beyond. The challenge the Industry faces is how to be both environmentally safe and profitable.

Taking into consideration wind farm history and case study documentation, failures of wind turbine components are far too common place, with each failure often requiring major component replacement or repair before designed end of life. Industry data indicates, in many cases, this happens in the five-to-seven year range and frequently outside of a warranty period.  These failures attribute to substantial loss in electrical production and associated costs that may be passed on to the consumer.  

One of the challenges the industry faces is the collection and consolidation of lubrication data that is predictive and for the purpose of making strategic decisions that have an impact on cost, maintenance and efficiency.  Oil condition monitoring and a well established lubrication program are keys to influencing these strategic decision-making activities.

In a successful oil analysis program, companies must understand why to sample and when, as well as when to drain and ultimately how to react to oil analysis results.  It is good practice for a company to periodically evaluate its lubrication program.  Are the technicians properly trained?  Are the standards and procedures in place, clearly communicated and followed, and are the work plans efficient?

The ability to consolidate different types of lubrication data into a single database is crucial to making strategic decisions related to cost, coordinated maintenance activities and overall performance efficiency. 

There are many different factors which affect data collection:

  • Oil Analysis;
  • Vibration Analysis;
  • Temperature ;
  • Filter Examination;
  • Benchmarking & Historical Trending;
  • Communication & Awareness;
  • Work Flow Resolution.

How this data is analyzed has a huge impact on maintenance activities.  Different maintenance activities affected by data analysis include:

  • Oil Analysis
  • Prioritization
  • Standard actions, routine or immediate break in work?
  • Align with work process, maintenance service intervals, and weather patterns;
  • Timely follow-up through resolution;
  • Assessment of data to confirm asset health;
  • Reduction of crane costs and lower overall cost of energy through technology.

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All lubricated components require vigilant and proactive systems to manage costs and reduce friction and wear.   Data needs to be utilized in order to monitor system health, while reducing impact to the environment.  Machinery problems and failures are frequently attributed more so to the lack of intervention when there are warnings rather than to engineering or design flaws.