Extending Wind Turbine Useful Lives

Retrofitting wind turbinesGiven the ever-growing presence of wind turbines in the global energy supply mix, what happens to them as they age? In a LinkedIn article, Retrofit: A Second Life for Wind Turbines, Emerson’s Power & Water Solutions business president, Bob Yeager, describes the essential role retrofits play in enhancing wind turbine performance.

Bob opens by noting that not only are new developments significant:

…but also with an enhancement to today’s wind turbines called retrofitting.

He highlights the growth of wind energy production.

In fact, according to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), 2021 was the second-best year for wind power globally, with 94 GW of new capacity installed around the world, trailing behind 2020’s record growth by only 1.8%. Today, there’s 837 GW of wind power capacity worldwide, helping to avoid more than 1.2 billion tonnes (1.3 billion US tons) of CO2 annually. And there’s no signs of this slowing down. According to Precedence Research, the wind energy market, valued at $77.77 billion in 2021, is expected to reach $174.75 billion by 2030.

Bob defines retrofitting.

Retrofitting is a strategy to implement tailored software and technologies on existing wind turbines to extend the lifespan, increase availability, enhance performance, and reduce operation and maintenance costs.

He describes why these turbines have a typical 20-year lifespan.

Turbines in more remote locations and harsher conditions have greater operation and maintenance costs, which can reach up to 35% of annual costs as the turbines age. And for most wind operators today, it’s difficult to predict upcoming maintenance needs because they lack newer automation systems with condition monitoring capability. Furthermore, they are operating with “black box” systems that do not provide access to the detailed data needed to customize turbine-specific maintenance plans.

To extend their useful lives, the solution is to implement:

…advanced, customized control strategies on existing wind turbines, [so that] owners and operators can produce more energy, resulting in higher revenue for a fraction of the cost of investing in repowering existing turbines or purchasing new ones.

Read the LinkedIn post for more on how one Alaskan wind energy producer improved management and reliability, reduced operations and maintenance costs by 65%, and how the recent acquisition of Mita-Teknik provides additional technologies and solutions to extend wind turbine usefulness lives.

Visit the Wind Turbine Controls section on Emerson.com for more on the technologies and solutions to improve overall wind energy performance.

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