Rising OEM warranties remain one of the most significant issues the wind industry faces today. More and more wind farms are filing OEM warranty claims for turbines than most manufacturers anticipated, leading to significant losses.
To meet current demand and achieve financial viability, OEMs may find themselves compelled to make compromises in terms of quality. This could result in the need to carry out regular, rapid, and accurate wind turbine inspections to keep wind farm stakeholders happy as this may be the only way to identify any issues before they escalate and potentially impact the entire farm.
Unfortunately, legacy turbine inspection methods are both costly and inaccurate, which may result in the need for an OEM warranty claim.
Let’s dive deeper into the warranty issue and how new tech is working to address this challenge.
Wind Turbine Warranty Claims Are Skyrocketing
Though OEMs typically anticipate a certain level of warranty claims every year, recently the amount of claims far exceeds their expectations. Take a look at the following reports from three OEMs reporting the same issue:
- Siemens Gamesa reports a US$974 million net loss on high warranty costs.
- GE Renewable Energy confirms a $2.2 billion loss, citing warranty provisions for onshore wind turbines as a significant contributor.
- Vesta’s volume of warranty provisions exceeded the company’s target for the 12th consecutive quarter.
While no two claims are the same, it’s likely that more frequent and accurate inspections may have a positive effect on this concerning trend.
Additionally, wind turbine manufacturers continue to explore new avenues for manufacturing wind turbines and other related parts. While this should be beneficial long-term, it may increase the frequency of defects as they work to perfect new manufacturing techniques.
For wind farms, this might mean that new turbines will require faster and precise inspections that can be conducted at a higher frequency to identify any potential problems that may result from these changes.
Fortunately, new technologies have emerged that can help tackle these problems by allowing wind farms to gain clearer visibility of their turbine status, informing them of any potential damages, and help avert downtime and failures.
Why Autonomous Turbine Inspection is Critical to Tackling This Problem
Wind turbine performance monitoring has advanced in leaps and bounds in recent years. Digital Twin technologies and autonomous drone software allow wind farms to conduct automated, rapid, and accurate inspections using off-the-shelf drones, preventing downtime and failures. Other advancements in AI and IoT have also allowed for better monitoring.
We’ve seen a growing demand for inspections as managers strive to maximize the life cycle and reduce the need for OEM repairs. Legacy inspection methods have some critical flaws that are starting to negatively impact profitability, such as:
- Manual rope inspections are time-consuming, demanding, and hazardous for the inspector.
- Ground-based zoom photo capture is limited in scope and quality, and doesn’t provide a comprehensive overview of the turbine.
- Manual drone piloting improves the above two methods, but the inspector needs to be highly skilled in both drone piloting and wind turbine inspections. That means this option is often too time-intensive and costly.
Instead, new technologies in wind turbine inspection enable a drone to autonomously collect all available data within 30 minutes. Autonomous drone inspections have gone from an optional utility to an operational imperative for many wind farms, being able to carry out faster repairs and minimize output degradation, cut operational costs, and avoid filing warranty claims.
How vHive Simplifies the Inspection Process
Digital twins and autonomous inspections create significant value for wind farms because they streamline all aspects of the inspection process.
The value chain of frequent, automated and accurate inspections can reach several areas of the business, including:
- Collecting and processing turbine data without complexity: Autonomous inspections take complexity out of the inspection process. They don’t require highly skilled and costly drone pilots to deploy, there is no need for prolonged downtime as each inspection can be done under 30 minutes, and all surveyed data is stored in a single web-based platform offering a single source of truth to all stakeholders.
- Fast, severity-based damage assessment: Any new damage to the blades, such as from a lightning strike, needs to be inspected immediately to prevent any issues from worsening. Deploying autonomous drones makes it a fast and simple task that can help assess the problem both accurately and rapidly with AI-driven identification of damage by severity levels, helping you address specific issues by urgency so repairs can be issued as quickly as needed.
- Optimizing operational performance: Wind turbine monitoring with autonomous drone inspections coupled with digital twins analytics allow stakeholders to improve the performance of the entire wind farm by creating frequently updated data to inform new decisions.
- Dramatic reductions in OPEX: Having the ability to proactively detect potential equipment defects and failures can significantly reduce a company’s OPEX by allowing them to detect and address these issues before they worsen.
Ultimately, rapid and automated inspections help understand damage, improve performance, and reduce warranty claims.
Upgrade Your Inspections with vHive
OEM warranty claims are rising at an untenable rate, and manufacturers will undoubtedly be taking corrective action to remain profitable.
What’s clear is the need to be proactive in how you inspect and maintain your assets.
Frequent and accurate inspections not only provide you with a detailed breakdown of your turbine status, but automatically highlight areas of concern before they impact performance, giving you control in avoiding equipment failures and ultimately reducing warranty claims.