SKF WindCon, described as a powerful condition monitoring system for wind turbines, is thought to have saved an estimated £1 million for a single global wind farm operator. This system is claimed to enable wind farms to extend turbine maintenance intervals, manage resources more effectively and avoid costly downtime, and results from operators are said to be proving time and again the potential to achieve this on a grand scale.

A large number of this customer’s 1.3 megawatt turbines across the UK and Ireland were coming out of warranty,” explains Paul Deighton, General Manager, SKF Reliability Systems. “So they carried out an extensive study to determine their best option for maintaining them in the future. To increase reliability it’s vital to identify problems at an early stage. The customer’s research suggested that SKF WindCOn would be a good retrofit and would offer them more controllability.”

The company advises it installed in hundreds of turbines around the world. It features CAN-bus interconnectivity to a number of systems typically found in modern wind turbines, such as centralised lubrication, blade monitoring, and gearbox oil condition systems. These elements can be remotely monitored simply and accurately at any maintenance centre using SKF WebCon software. Using vibration sensors mounted on a turbine’s main shaft bearings, drive train gearbox and generator, the system collects, analyses, and compiles a range of operating data that can be configured to suit a wind farm’s specific requirements. The data collected facilitates root cause failure analysis to eliminate recurring failures and keep costs down.

With this particular installation downtime and machine failure was prevented delivering a measurable cost saving. The company highlights that an engineering diagnosis rule introduced in SKF @ptitude Observer software detected a hairline crack on a gear tooth. The crack would have been difficult to inspect even with the naked eye and prolonged running of the gearbox would have led to complete tooth fracture. However, detecting the defect at an early stage resulted in saving around £57k in repair costs, as well as the added cost of gearbox ancillaries such as oil pump, hose, filter and so on.

 The company confirms that, the installation was carried out seamlessly and despite there being a large number of turbines, it was able to install their system in just four months. It explains that its SKF @ptitude Observer is easy to use and the software can be adapted to any algorithm.

 ”We have already identified a large number of faults that have saved hundreds of thousands of pounds, plus a lot of potential downtime,” says Paul Deighton. “The cost of wind turbine maintenance is high, even when it is onshore, and if a crane is required in a remote location, for example, it can be a logistical nightmare as well as a huge expense.

“For operators, profitability can only be maximised if turbines are available at all times; they cannot afford to have broken turbines standing idle. Availability of turbines is crucial and condition-based monitoring is key to achieving that.”

SKF Reliability Systems