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Maintenance & quality control common themes at WindEnergy Hamburg

Author: Stuart Fleming.

October 16 (Renewables Now) - Last month, the wind energy sector descended on Hamburg, Germany for the 2018 edition of the WindEnergy Hamburg Expo. Alex Pucacco, O&M consultant at engineering specialist BGB, provides for Renewables Now readers a review of the four-day event.

The biyearly event provides an opportunity for stakeholders across the sector to come together to showcase the latest technology and discuss the emerging trends and challenges for the sector as a whole. Based on the high levels of footfall on the trade show floor, this year’s edition was particularly well attended by professionals across Europe and the wider sector.

While there were a number of stimulating conversations concerning both on and offshore over the course of the exhibition – both in the event’s ‘Speaker’s Corner’ and on the trade show floor, a number of common themes were apparent throughout. Much of the conversation referred to maintenance and the need for more thorough quality control ahead of the installation of wind turbines as well as a need for more sophisticated systems when it comes to identifying tower and blade damage.

Ironically, there was a large number of drone companies also present at the event this year with many suggesting that their products were capturing images of turbines – sometimes up to 20+ a day. However, from speaking to some experts in the field, there are still some challenges when bringing human experience on damages into the vast amounts of data generated by drones – these include teething issues with reporting time and with some of the systems missing critical damages during inspection. While the benefits of drone technology cannot be doubted, it is clear there is a need for some refinement to address these challenges to ensure these examinations are as accurate as possible.

On the exhibition floor itself there were a number of new technologies that caught my attention. I look forward to seeing how Schaeffler’s pre-loaded taper main bearing can be used to reduce the failure for this troubled main component. Companies including ZF and Onyx have also made tremendous progress in delivering holistic-based condition monitoring of gearboxes and main bearings within turbines. It will be interesting to see how this approach impacts on the longevity and maintenance of units.

I also thought the addition of the general public and students to event on the final day of the show was a good idea - the wind industry has a responsibility to educate the public and inspire the next generation of engineers, software developers, technicians and asset managers. This type of outreach is essential to bridging the gap and to encouraging others to recognise the tremendous work of engineering professionals across the globe in delivering more sustainable solutions, which will be crucial to long-term energy generation.

For BGB, this year was the first time we have been so open about our aftermarket offering for slip rings and carbon brushes. In the past year as we have seen more OEMs offer multi-brand services, and with the emergence of a strong ISP market, we have felt more comfortable in relaying this message. I think a lot of customers are grateful for the level of choice that they have for their turbines when it comes to sourcing spare parts.

There is a maturity to the wind O&M market now in areas such as multi-brand and independent servicing, which has given the customer more choice when selecting a servicing partner. The same is true for spare parts, major components and consumables. I think these greater and more informed choices will lead to better reliability and lower costs.

Reflecting on the show, it’s clear there are a number of challenges in developing onshore wind projects especially in countries like the UK and Germany. This has changed the manufacturing landscape and strategy for European companies with a number of the major OEMs looking to manufacturing more overseas to reduce costs. Inevitably, quality comes into question when these decisions are made. What may be an initial saving could have detrimental effects on brand reputation and higher failures when in operation. While there are a number of factors influencing why a particular turbine or component is bought, the end user can still influence and support European manufacture, such as tender scoring for local content.

In an industry that is only going to become more competitive as the demand for clean energy continues to rise, there will always be a driver to reduce costs as firms strive to produce solutions in a zero-subsidy world. Therefore, it’s integral that purchasing teams consider putting product quality at the forefront of their decision making, rather than opting for the most cost-effective option.

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About the author

Alex is an experienced engineering consultant with a technical sales background and an extensive O&M network within the wind industry. He is part of the team at engineering specialist BGB.

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