Condition Monitoring For Wind Turbine Technology – Managing The Gaps

Apr 14, 2013 | Insights

STLETaken from a DINGO presentation at the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers (STLE) Annual Meeting and Exhibition, Detroit, Michigan, April, 2013

By: Jeff Walkup

  • According to information and statistics reported in the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) website 2012 industry statistics, the second quarter of 2012 saw 1,200 megawatts (MW) of wind power capacity installed, bringing the first half of 2012 to 2,896 MW and still increasing.
  • The U.S. wind industry now totals 49,802 MW of cumulative wind capacity through the end of the first half of 2012.
  • The U.S. wind industry has added over 35% of new generating capacity in the past five years, second only to natural gas, and more than nuclear and coal combined.
  • U.S. wind power capacity currently represents more than 20% of the world’s installed wind power.

One of the challenges the industry faces is the collection and consolidation of lubrication data that is predictive, repeatable and useful 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.

Some commonly used techniques for condition monitoring are: 

  • Vibration Measurement and Analysis
  • Oil Condition and Wear Debris Analysis
  • Thermography, Ultrasonic and On-line Sensors
  • Visual inspection
  • Benchmarking & Historical trending

There are several challenges the industry faces related to data and maintenance.

First, having 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 program efficiency.  Also, failures of wind turbine components are far too commonplace, with each failure requiring possible major component replacement or repair before the anticipated designed end of life.  Wind turbines and wind farms, in general, can present various and complex challenges due to their remote locations, height above ground, and adverse weather conditions as well as issues related to the power grid. The industry also has a need to reduce and even eliminate crane mobilization and costs as much as possible.  The justification for condition monitoring is not only an engineering question but clearly a financial decision as well.

Moving from Reactive to Predictive and Preventative Maintenance is the Ultimate Goal

There need to be systems in place to manage the massive amount of information available to engineering and maintenance personnel.

How can the industry optimize the data at its disposal to create practical, timely maintenance actions which maximize asset performance, reduce downtime and exceed stakeholder goals?

  • Use software systems and processes to benchmark asset health.
  • Work smarter and not harder, thereby eliminating redundancy.

 Top 5 Oil Analysis Guidelines 

  • Evaluate your OA testing package: are you incorporating the right tests at the correct intervals?
  • Compare the results of your bulk pristine oil to that of in-service oils (oil chemistry, TAN, etc.).  Utilize software capabilities that can allow for comparison trending. Check to ensure the correct oil is being used in each system: Are they being drained based upon condition or arbitrary time frames?
  • Partner with oil manufacturers, OEM’s, O&M providers and ISPs in regards to acceptable alarm limits such as water ppm/ percentage, contamination levels, metallurgical wear and ISO particle count. Benchmark specific data with similar make, model, and physical location of lubricated system; explore concepts of adjusting limits based on goals, objectives and realistic capabilities.
  • Avoid the temptation to adjust alert limits upward; rather, focus on proactive steps to identify the root cause and correct it. Do your personnel understand system metallurgy, contamination and what is considered acceptable?
  • Evaluate your total CM process including visual inspection and boroscope.  Additionally, investigate: what do you do to react to abnormal test results and how soon? Is your oil filtration protocol effective, are sample intervals frequent enough, and filter/breather specs sufficient?

Regardless of the industry in question, our world requires lubrication in varying and diverse forms.  Bearings, gear systems, pumps, hydraulic applications, and various other components require a vigilantly proactive system and methodology to manage cost, and reduce consumption, friction and wear.  Data must be utilized to monitor system health while at the same time, reducing the impact to the environment.

Machinery problems and failures will occur and are many times attributed, not so much to engineering flaws, but rather to the lack of human intervention when indications warn us well beforehand.

To see the presentation in its entirety, please click here.

For more information about STLE, please visit


“Trakka allows our team to run a highly effective condition-based maintenances program that helps our mine operate at the lowest cost per hour.”

– Maintenance Manager at a leading North American coal mine

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