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Posted 16/02/2015



Wind Farm Owners: How To Cut The Impact Of Gearbox Failure


Wind farm owners can face hefty bills —up to $500,000 if turbine gearboxes fail. This is the finding of a new report from an insurance specialist.

This month, renewable energy insurer GCube has published a report called Grinding Gearboxesabout the impact of gearbox failure on wind farm owners and investors. It has also highlighted a few key steps that asset managers should take to mitigate the impacts of these failures.

This is part of a series of reports called Global Trends in Wind Turbine Downtime Eventsthat is seeking to quantify the risks and financial impacts of failures of different turbine parts. This follows its report Breaking Bladesthat came out last December. Read more on that one here.

Here are some of those key gearbox statistics:

  • Gearboxes constitute 13% of the overall value of a typical onshore wind turbine.

  • There are approximately 175,000 geared turbines in operation in 86 countries worldwide.

  • There are 1,200 reported gearbox failures each year, meaning one failure per 145 turbines.

  • The cost of these failures is typically $200,000 to $300,000, though can be up to $500,000.

This shows that gearbox failures are more common than investors might think. Common problems include manufacturing defects, cracking of bearing coatings, and ineffective lubrication. 

And the risks are heightened in the current difficult financial climate because gearbox makers have come under pressure to change their production processes. The threat of manufacturers becoming insolvent is also an issue for operators who seek to enforce warranties to gain repairs or new parts.

For GCube, the lesson for developers and investors is twofold. The first is to ensure that the firms managing their wind farms are looking at proactive maintenance programmes to predict and head off problems; and the second is to ensure they are covered for the cost of these problems.

You can read more about the research here.

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