“Oh like windmills? That’s cool!”
… Above is the most commonly received response whenever I explain my occupation. In the Midwest, wind turbines (not windmills) are a common sight. With powerful winds, support from local governments, and sites of many major companies, this area has become a wind energy powerhouse. When clustered together, their size and volume gets your attention. However, even as wind energy has never been more valued, much of what is involved in its production is still not commonly understood.
The wind industry and what happens “behind the scenes” is fascinating. Here, I’ll give you a glimpse into part of the site development process and challenges.
Initially, studies will occur to understand an area’s potential wind production. If windy enough, rent negotiations ensue between landowners and power companies. New wind farms typically have many separate units. Construction of the site often involves setting-up a completely new infrastructure for the area. This includes a maintenance building, roads to access each turbine, and (when necessary) an electrical grid including power lines and substations. After these upfront costs have incurred, the actual turbines are purchased. The average wind farm is worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Most wind sites have power purchasing agreements and owners try to ensure the turbines are producing the desired amount of power output. When turbine failures occur, this can lead to some tough decisions within limited budgets. Example: what gets fixed first- the failed gearbox bearing or the failed generator slip ring? Also, turbines are meant to last at least 20 years; when is the right time to upgrade your parts to the newest technologies? What preventive maintenance practices help prevent “downtime”? These decisions need to be made on a daily basis.
There is so much happening in this quickly evolving industry. At the Kurz Wind Division we work hard to be an asset to our customers, and in turn, we’ve been able to grow our offerings significantly. Being an integral part of helping wind farms operate at top efficiency is an honor, and we would love to talk with you about your growing business. Please feel free to drop us a line with questions about turbine products and best practices, we are always here to help.