Asset Inspection

Wind farms rely on every turbine operating at peak efficiency while maximizing each asset’s possible lifespan. This means any unplanned downtime can have a significant impact on a wind farm’s profitability.

Asset inspections aim to keep turbines operational and efficient for as long as possible, which is why it’s crucial to adopt the right asset inspection software and practices.

What is Wind Farm Asset Management Inspection?

Wind farms rely on maintaining every wind turbine to remain profitable. A turbine that breaks down or significantly degrades output impacts the bottom line of the business.

Operations & Maintenance (O&M) is an overarching methodology found in many industries. For wind farms, O&M is heavily focused on frequent inspections and preventative and predictive maintenance.

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Energy research lab, details specific O&M considerations for wind farms, including:

  • Creating maintenance checklists, which include inspection processes
  • Procedures for addressing unscheduled maintenance
  • List and costs of components that will likely require replacement or refurbishment
  • Any skills and training necessary for on-site personnel to monitor assets
  • Evaluating cost and frequency of scheduled maintenance

You can see how much of PNNL’s O&M advice focuses on maintenance, but the foundation of creating many of these maintenance procedures is conducting frequent and cost-effective asset inspections.

Common Asset Inspection Methods

Wind turbine asset management depends on inspections. Frequent inspections allow technicians to identify issues, which allows for scheduling preventative maintenance before the issue escalates and causes unplanned maintenance.

There are three standard methods of inspecting wind farms:

  1. Rope inspections: The oldest method still used today requires technicians to scale turbines to visually inspect specific turbine components. These inspections are time-intensive, require specialized training, and are hazardous.
  2. Piloted drone inspections: Wind turbine drone inspection began with piloted drones. A technician with the necessary experience in drone piloting conducts inspections from the ground, focussing on specific components. This method significantly improves rope inspections, both in speed and safety.
  3. Autonomous drone inspections: The latest advancement in wind turbine inspections is leveraging autonomous drones. Drones with the right software, such as vHive’s solution, are easily deployed and enable asset inspection automation. Once complete, technicians review the high-quality images captured to identify potential issues.

Asset inspection is the cornerstone of properly maintaining wind turbines. Conducting frequent, low-cost inspections goes a long way in the profitability of the entire operation.

Key Benefits of Frequent Wind Turbine Inspection

How do frequent inspections benefit your entire operation? Let’s break down a few of the common benefits of low-cost inspections carried out more frequently than legacy methods.

Extend the Lifespan of Wind Assets

Wind turbines degrade over time, producing less energy and becoming increasingly likely to break down as they age. Frequent inspections allow your teams to stay on top of causes of degradation and schedule maintenance before these issues escalate.

An escalating issue may result in the turbine breaking down entirely but may instead increase the wear and tear on essential components and affect the overall lifespan of the asset. Conducting frequent inspections helps catch these issues that may not otherwise be identified.

Optimize Asset Efficiency

Issues with wind turbines don’t always result in downtime, which is readily apparent. Sometimes, components have issues that degrade output, becoming less efficient and affecting profitability.

Inspections are one of the best ways to catch and correct degradation. Frequent inspections allow technicians to identify problems causing output degradation. Then, maintenance can be performed to return turbines to ideal efficiency.

Cut Operating Expenses

Managing operating expenses (OpEx) is crucial for any business. OpEx for wind farms balances inspections, maintenance, turbine replacement, and personnel.

Optimizing inspection processes can go far in cutting overall operating costs. Upgrading from rope inspections to autonomous drone inspections means significantly reducing the costs associated with inspecting turbines.

Once you can frequently inspect wind farms at reduced costs, you can also fine-tune preventative and predictive maintenance schedules to keep wind turbines operating at their best. The initial investment in enhancing inspection processes will likely cut expenses throughout the operation.