Proceeding of the 24th International Congress on Condition Monitoring and Diagnostics Engineering Management, Stavanger, Norway, 30 May - 1 June, 2011

Applications of Health Monitoring to Wind Turbines

Michael Pecht1 , Michael H. Azarian1, Ranjith S.R. Kumar1, Nishad Patil1, Anshul Shrivastava1
1CALCE, Center for Advanced Life Cycle Engineering, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20740, USA


With rising oil prices, the depletion of fossil fuel sources and changing geo‐political environment, there is heavy investment worldwide in the development of alternate sources of energy. Wind provides a widely available, non‐polluting, renewable source of energy which can help to meet the ever growing demand. The success of wind energy as an alternative to fossil fuels hinges on the extent to which wind turbines can provide a dependable and cost‐effective source of power. Statistics show that the longest downtime for wind turbines is due to failures of the gearbox, followed by the electrical system and the control system. Wear‐out failure of bearings caused the longest average downtime among the gearbox failures, most of which demanded a complete change of the gearbox or bearings. The circuitry used for conversion and transfer of power in wind turbines consists of components such as power semiconductor devices (e.g., IGBTs, MOSFETs, diodes), as well as transformers, inductors, and capacitors. Insulated gate bipolar transistors (IGBTs) are known to exhibit latch‐up or parametric degradation due to aging. Liquid aluminum electrolytic capacitors have been responsible for numerous costly and potentially hazardous equipment failures. The availability of wind energy generation equipment can be improved by implementing techniques for health monitoring, anomaly detection, and prognostics. Successful identification of degraded components is critical to preventing deterioration of power quality or a potentially catastrophic short circuit. This paper provides an overview of PHM (prognostics and health management) strategies for critical components of wind energy systems. Specific examples from health monitoring studies of IGBTs, electrolytic capacitors, and bearings provide an illustration of how these techniques can lead to real‐time fault detection and life time estimation in wind turbines, enabling condition‐based maintenance and reduction in life‐cycle costs.

This article is available online here and to CALCE Consortium Members for personal review.

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