Navigating the challenge of Obsolescence in wind turbine spare parts
In recent years we have seen an increasing issue with obsolescence for wind turbine spare parts. Manufacturers phase out older versions of their wind turbine spare parts and discontinue production. This practice poses a challenge for the maintenance and longevity of existing wind farms.
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The obsolescence problems lie generally more around electrical based items, whereas mechanical wind turbine spare parts seem less of an issue. Manufacturers such as ABB, Schneider, AEG, etc will, for example, produce electrical items for wind turbines for a period of time and then replace these with newer, upgraded versions. In the past, there was still availability of some older items as manufacturers had a special manufacturing facility to continue making these discontinued lines. These electrical wind turbine spare parts were on long delivery times and very expensive, but still available. Alas, in recent years, manufacturers have stopped this practice.
Nowadays, to our surprise, we have noticed obsolete wind turbine spare parts even in new wind turbines. We received a phone call from one of our customers of wind turbine spare parts, who was having a new wind turbine commissioned. The turbine had an issue with a defect fan unit. The OEM did not stock a replacement fan, and we were asked if we could source it for them. We then realized that the fan was obsolete.
There really is no easy way around obsolescence of wind turbine spare parts.
We do get large ACB units refurbished so that they can be reused. However, there are only so many times that a unit can be refurbished. Another problem lies in the fact that there nearly always is no direct replacement for an obsolete part. The new wind turbine spare part will always be slightly different and thus will need engineering approval before it can be used. With computers, you may come across the issue of the OEM’s IP for the installed software.
One remedy for obsolescence could be to speak to the OEMs of the wind turbine parts. Owners of wind farms should insist to receive a complete wind turbine spare parts list for their turbines. It could also be helpful if two or more owners with the same turbine model compared their parts lists: they might detect differences in equipment fitted.
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