FREMONT, CA: Wind turbines are a major investment for the businesses that rely on them to generate both electricity and revenue. However, if damaged or overworked, even the smallest components can affect the overall efficiency of a turbine. Proper maintenance and design of turbine components are essential for a wind farm to operate reliably and avoid unplanned repairs or expensive replacements.
There are many different parts of the wind turbine that need to be lubricated, using lubrication from greases to gearbox fluids to hydraulic oils. Now, engineers and manufacturers are continuously improving turbine components for higher durability and reliability. Also, many developments have been made in recent years for a few important turbine components such as slippers, bearings, brushes, and cables.
As wind turbines become stronger, slip rings are upgraded and refined to function optimally in a nacelle's harsh environment. A well-designed slip ring requires little maintenance and long service life. Regardless of the design, when selecting slip rings for wind turbines, it is important to consider the quality of the elements used, maintenance required, and the overall life expectancy. The slip rings once had a power loss reputation and limited capacity; this is no longer the case.
Previously, copper brushes are widely used in the wind industry, but now the use of silver brushes is being reconsidered by turbine manufacturers and operators. Copper was the metal of choice typically because it is relatively reliable and cost-effective. Keeping down maintenance costs is key to maximizing investment returns from wind farms. Silver brushes prove the wiser choice for longevity and performance throughout life. Wind operators selecting silver brushes may now pay more but benefit from fewer long-term repairs or brush changes.
In addition, tapered roller bearings have shown desirable performance in a number of new wind turbine applications compared to conventional spherical rollers. Also, it is necessary to use full-strength, underwater helical cable terminations during deployment and subsea equipment recovery to prevent cable failures.
Many advances are expected in the next ten years, including a new production of offshore and onshore wind turbines that will have more benefit for the owners as well as more developments in a turbine's components and controls.
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