Wind energy has grown exponentially over the past decade, increasing by 29.7% (on average) per year, in line with the 2008 projection by the U.S. Department of Energy that the U.S. could derive 20% of its energy from wind power by 2030. In the following white paper, we discuss current challenges in the wind industry, the solutions a robust maintenance management program or CMMS software solution can provide, and future developments in the sphere, as the wind industry continues to move towards a larger share of the total energy marketplace.
The Current State of the Wind Industry
At present, there are over fifty wind generation manufacturers (also known as original equipment manufacturers or OEMs) around the globe. In the U.S. over 470 manufacturing facilities produce components for wind turbines. Wind turbine maintenance and service providers consist of: OEMs, end- user wind farmer owners, and independent service providers (or ISPs). Wind OEMs continue to dominate operations and maintenance (O&M) of wind installations, but that has been steadily changing as ISPs and utilities have begun to encroach into the sphere, according to Windpower Monthly.
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) sees the U.S. wind industry as a large market for wind power capacity installations and a growing market for American manufacturing. Over the past five years, the U.S. wind industry has added over 35% of all new generating capacity, second only to natural gas, and more than nuclear and coal combined. Further confirmation of the industry’s growth was evident in the installation of approximately 50,000 megawatts (MW) of wind power capacity, at the close of 2012, and the 8,300 MW of wind power under construction at the outset of 2013. Currently, U.S. wind power capacity alone represents more than 20% of the world’s installed wind power.
Though past and present performance of wind turbine OEMs has been consistently robust, insiders like Andrew Longeteig of Vestas (a wind turbine manufacturer) are concerned about a recent slowdown. “The U.S. wind industry has slowed, largely due to the uncertainty of the federal Production Tax Credit extension at the end of 2012, which has led to a significant reduction in turbine orders for 2013…” Fortunately for the industry, congress extended the tax credit, but not indefinitely. Nevertheless, despite declines in unit-level costs, IHS, an emerging energy research firm, predicted that annual O&M spending will double to nearly $6 billion by 2025.
The National Science Foundation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and NASA high-end computing funded a joint-research effort between the University of Delaware and Stanford University to study the potential of wind turbines to fulfill future energy demands. The results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), and in that report participating scientists assert that wind turbines could fulfill half the world’s 2030 energy demand, with minimal environmental impact, by installing four million turbines. Wind energy has grown by 29.7% (on average) every year over the past decade and if that exponential rate of growth continues, the U.S. could derive 20% of its energy from wind by 2020. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), in conjunction with six leading wind turbine manufacturers, has undertaken a campaign towards achieving that goal.
Challenges in the Wind Industry
Operations and maintenance is the nexus of lean manufacturing, affecting everything from profitability, safety, environmental compliance, and asset life, to consumer confidence. Three areas for improvement that are adversely affecting the ascendancy of the wind industry are 1) unruly maintenance costs, 2) lack of historical maintenance data, and 3) under utilization of the maintenance software systems that can redress both 1) and 2). Currently, $40 billion worth of wind installations are at (or near) the end of the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) warranty periods, with current energy demands such that more operational turbines were out of warranty than covered, in the previous year, according to an extensive study commissioned by Sandia National Laboratories. Wind farmers whose OEM’s have expired are weighing the pros and cons of managing their wind farms maintenance internally or outsourcing it to OEM’s or ISPs.
Wind Turbine Maintenance Costs
The affect O&M has on overall operational efficiency (OOE) is amply expressed in its portion of the total cost of a wind turbine, 20 – 30%, nearly a third of the expense. Consistently, the two greatest factors influencing O&M costs are: 1) expenses associated with scheduled maintenance and, 2) the costs of unscheduled maintenance.
According to a presentation developed by Lucintel in 2011, gear box, generator, and turbine blades represent the three primary components in a wind turbine generating site that require regular servicing. They estimate these components represent 80% of the tota