Keeping Wind Turbines Spinning Is The Goal

Here’s something you might not have considered when it comes to wind power: The amount of time, money and productivity that is lost to repairing and maintaining the turbines. Turbine-manufacturing giant GE has thought about it, and says costs are “skyrocketing.” To try to get things under control, the company is working with the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) on a two-year study that “will focus on helping wind farms to reduce maintenance costs and improve availability through predictions of impending problems.”

The research project grows out of a U.S. Department of Energy initiative, announced in 2009, that is backing three wind-energy research consortia around the country, including one at IIT, with grants of about $8 million apiece.

ITT, GE wind study

image via GE

The IIT research will be conducted near Marseilles, Ill., on a GE 1.5-megawatt series wind turbine operated and maintained by Invenergy, GE said. IIT students will add extra sensors to the turbine “to improve condition-monitoring precision,” and enhance the software monitoring models to include measurements of vibration, lube oil and blade pitch motors. Monitoring of the turbine and analysis of energy output and performance will be done from the IIT campus in Chicago.

“Wind farms need to know ahead of time what needs to be fixed – and what doesn’t,” Stacey Kacek, GE Intelligent Platforms’ general manager, said in a statement. “If they have credible early warning of impending equipment problems, the farms can prioritize tower inspections, optimize crane usage and leverage resources in remote locations. Being able to avoid surprises and take control of maintenance in a proactive way translates to significant cost savings for the industry.”

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

  • Very nice intervention diagnosing the problem before happeningu00a0

    • Joseph Traxler

      I work on GE’s. There is no way to predict when one will fail or for what reason. Good luck.

  • Anonymous

    I tried to get our local council to set aside funds for repair/alteration/final takedown if necessary – but nothing happened of course. u00a0Whether the turbines work or not, we will have to look at them, or bits of them, for ever; u00a0If there is an “ever”. u00a0u00a0