Getting Your Wind System Ready for Winter

Getting your wind system ready for winter means preparing your wind turbines and components to ensure continual harvest of energy when the weather is icy.

Large wind energy producers install Condition Monitoring Systems (CMS) to secure the performance of their systems throughout the year. To do that would be costly for a smaller home energy producer and not really necessary.

However, by implementing a simple monitoring and preventive maintenance system of our own we can benefit from the same principles of a CMS. That means we save money and our system stays efficient.

Preventing Wind Turbine Failure

Wind turbine failure is especially expensive and worrisome during the winter for several reasons. First, November through April is peak wind energy production time. Secondly, and most obviously, winter is not the most enjoyable time to perform maintenance, nor is it cheap usually due to conditional constraints on time, access, and potential expense for special equipment or technicians, etc.

So how does one set up their own CMS to keep their wind energy system performing through the winter and through its expected life? Beginning with your systems user manual, follow the Preventative Maintenance chapter recommendations. Commonly, those have you inspect your turbine and tower 30 days after installation, and then again 180 days after installation.

It’s a good idea to have a system note book to write the results of your inspections in. These would be your reference measurements to be compared against subsequent inspections. Inspections are only recommended when the wind is below 16 mph and need to be performed especially after severe weather.

If you have had an operational system and never have performed regular inspections, don’t worry, it’s never too late to start. Better to start now though before that real cold snap comes.

Here is a check list you can use for inspections:

Inspect Blades

  1. Cracks, chips, leading or trailing edge damage, or nicks? Replace blades if damaged. Do not operate the turbine with chipped or unbalanced blades. This will cause severe wear, damage, and possible failure. Operating the wind turbine with unbalanced blades may void your warranty. Do not install individual blades as they are balanced as a set.
  2. Every five years, replace the blades regardless of their condition. The blades usually contain UV inhibitors; however, the sun will eventually erode the composite material. New blades enhance safety and performance.
  3. Clean off dirt and debris for optimal performance.

Inspect Bolts

  1. Check blade bolts, nuts, and hub nut for correct tightness or torque (see specifications).

Check Bearings

  1. If bearings are a part of your system, check bearings for seal integrity and grease loss. Generally, it is recommended that bearings be re-packed (re-greased) every 8-12 years.

Inspect Other Hardware

  1. Check nosecone fit, mainframe, tail boom, bushings, and/or fin for cracks or any loose hardware. If your system has a tail pivot pin, check its fasteners.

Electrical

  1. Check connections to make sure they are tight and free from corrosion.
  2. Some systems require you to disconnect the alternator shorting connection. Check the disconnect switch.
  3. Inspect the wire run.
  4. Check the condition of all wiring.
  5. Every seven years replace the circuit board. Some components on the PCB require periodic replacement due to stress from temperature and voltage fluctuations seen under normal operating conditions. While changing the circuit board, check the condition of the brushes and slip rings. With the turbine open and the yaw shaft removed, observe the brushes and slip rings for grooving or other signs of wear.

Leaning Tower?

  1. Check to see that your tower is plumb. A leaning tower will decrease energy production.

Good luck and here’s to a energy productive year! Browse our selection of windpower products and books. If you need help updating your wind turbine system or improving it, please Contact Us at Backwoods Solar online or at 208-263-4290.