End of Warranty Inspection
What is a Wind Turbine End of Warranty Inspection?
End of Warranty (EoW) inspections take place before a manufacturer’s warranty expires to identify any possible issues that are still covered.
EoW inspections for wind turbines typically include a comprehensive review and analysis of performance, safety systems, maintenance history, and current physical condition.
Why does this matter? Wind turbine inspections work to fully maximize your warranty to eliminate unnecessary costs from defects discovered after the warranty expires. This not only reduces potential costs, but can also extend the lifespan of a turbine.
These inspections also double as standard inspections, helping teams plan future maintenance, ensure optimal functionality, and prevent unplanned downtime — even if issues are not covered under the remaining warranty.
The Different Types of OEM Warranties
There are several types of OEM warranties, each with varying levels of coverage and terms. Three of the common types of warranties include:
- Parts only: A parts-only warranty indicates the OEM will provide replacements for any defective parts, but they will not cover the labor to replace them. Shipping or transportation costs are also typically not covered. While limiting, EoW inspections are still beneficial if you have this type of warranty.
- Full warranty: These comprehensive warranties cover both parts and labor, which may include repairing or replacing a defective component at no cost to you. OEMs will be responsible for the entire cost of making a covered component operational again. Coverage still has stipulations, for example, not covering weather damage but offering a complete replacement for normal wear and tear.
- Partial warranty: OEMs may offer a partial warranty to provide more than a parts-only coverage but not quite a full one. Partial warranties typically offer inclusion or exclusion lists to dictate coverage. For some components, the OEM may only offer parts replacement, but for other components, they’ll cover parts and labor.
Review your specific warranty for the turbine before carrying out inspections to understand what’s covered and what’s not.
Common Tasks Conducted During EoW Inspections
The specific tasks you’ll want to carry out might vary depending on your warranty type and the turbine. Common tasks for EoW inspections include:
- Identifying gaps in the Long-Term Service Agreement (LTSA), if applicable
- Blade analysis
- Main bearing and gearbox inspections
- Drivetrain vibration analysis
- Comprehensive and documented visual inspections of structural components
- Known defect analysis
- Major component evaluation
How Long Can These Inspections Take?
The total duration of an EoW wind turbine inspection will vary based on a range of factors, including turbine size, design complexity, specific components that need inspection, and documenting findings.
If you only need to inspect one turbine, it might only take a few days, but if you need to carry out multiple EoW turbine inspections, it may take weeks or even months.
You can shorten the timeframe by being ready ahead of time with the latest tools like thermal imaging and autonomous drones to make each inspection more efficient and better documented.
Why are End of Warranty Inspections Important?
End of Warranty inspections are so critical that some third parties have started offering a warranty inspection service. While you might be able to handle them in-house, the existence of this service speaks to how critical they are for a wind farm.
Let’s dive into a few key ways these inspections are important.
Identify Any Covered Defects
The primary goal of an EoW inspection is to identify and document any defects that are still covered under the warranty before it expires. It’s crucial to have a strong understanding of the covered components before conducting these inspections so technicians can focus on those areas.
Identifying these defects before warranty expiration can eliminate unnecessary parts and labor costs, allowing you to pass some — or all of these costs — onto the OEM. You’ll also prevent future unplanned downtime and extend the turbine’s lifespan.
Using your warranty before it expires has a direct impact on cost savings. These upfront cost savings are the most immediate benefit of EoW inspections.
However, the cost reduction extends beyond these immediate savings and can have a significant impact on the bottom line, too. You’ll avoid needing to buy and replace parts in the future, prevent unplanned downtime, and extend the lifespan of the turbine.
Prevent Major Failures
Regularly scheduled inspections work to prevent failures, and EoW inspections share the same goal. However, this objective varies slightly with EoW inspections by taking a longer-term approach to possible failures resulting from covered components.
For example, blades and gearboxes specifically are crucial components that are expensive to repair or replace. An EoW inspection will thoroughly examine current functionality and integrity to identify any concerns that may be covered by the warrant before it expires.
Replacing or repairing defective parts is crucial to preventing unplanned downtime caused by major failures. It’s ideal to have these issues covered by the OEM, but even if not, identifying them is crucial.
Common Challenges of EoW Inspections
There are a few common challenges wind farms may come across with EoW inspections. So, let’s go over the two most common hurdles so you can prepare for them ahead of time.
Pushback from OEMs
An extremely common challenge with filing warranty claims is pushback from OEMs. However, this challenge isn’t specific to EoW claims — it’s normal for OEMs to evaluate and scrutinize claims. The more expensive the parts and repair, the more careful the OEM will be about approving a claim.
OEMs may dispute the findings of the inspections, have a different interpretation of warranty terms, or consider the claim a low severity. Resolving any of these or more responses from the OEMs is possible but is typically time-consuming. You might need to bring in a third party to resolve a dispute or conduct additional inspections to provide them with more documentation.
These delays might result in the warranty expiring before a resolution is reached — so be sure to plan ahead and launch any claims within the warranty period.
The more turbines require an EoW inspection, the more difficult scheduling these inspections becomes. On top of scheduling difficulties, productivity is affected since inspections require turbines to be taken offline. Managing this drop loss with efficient inspections isn’t easy if you need to inspect a significant amount of turbines at once.
Additionally, even with ideal scheduling, unpredictable weather conditions can interfere with executing your schedule. Anything from high winds to thunderstorms can make it challenging, unsafe, or impractical to carry out EoW inspections.
Start your inspections well in advance of warranty expiration. When combined with possible pushback from OEMs, starting your inspections earlier than you might expect is key to a successful EoW claim.
Benefits of Using Drones for EoW Inspections
Conducting a wind turbine drone inspection as part of your End of Warranty inspections provides significant benefits throughout the process. You’ll save time, be able to provide OEMs with accurate documentation, and significantly reduce the risks to personnel in the process.
So, let’s explore the benefits of enlisting drones in your EoW inspections, which also apply to standard routine inspections.
Before drones, inspections had to be conducted with rope inspections, which took a significant amount of time and created a significant risk for technicians. Now, drones can easily and safely reach the heights of a turbine and rapidly document key areas of the turbine.
Now, the latest advancements in AI have created autonomous drones capable of inspecting turbines without human interventions. Wind turbine inspection software works with these next-gen drones to locate and document key components, only requiring a technician to initiate the flight.
From there, technicians can handle other responsibilities, prepare for the next turbine, and be able to review the drone’s results in detail back at the office.
Reduce Risks to Personnel
We touched on the risks of rope inspections above, but it’s worth focusing on in greater detail. Legacy methods of inspecting turbines required technicians to climb the turbines on a platform with ropes and pulleys. Even with all possible safety precautions, it was a risky process.
Using drones, whether autonomous or manually piloted, removes this risk entirely. Technicians won’t need to inspect the external struggle by physically scaling the turbine, instead having drones safely reach the required height.
Produce More Accurate Data
Drones are equipped with high-res cameras that can take photos or videos of specific components for future review by technicians or engineers. You can also choose to equip drones with other sensors, such as thermal imaging cameras.
This level of precision helps identify even the slightest signs of wear and tear, defects, or other concerns covered by your warranty. Not only will you be able to identify them, but you’ll also have the proof ready to provide to the OEMs.