If it’s human-made and has moving parts, it needs maintenance. It doesn’t matter if it’s a spinning engine, a spinning wheel, or a spinning wind generator. You can’t run a car for years—or even months—without maintenance and expect it to last long. And it’s no different with a wind generator.
Veteran wind energy expert Mick Sagrillo says that the “average home-sized wind turbine will put on as many ‘miles’ in four months as the average car does in 100,000 miles.” And regular maintenance is crucial for the survival, safety, and energy production of a wind-electric system. Once a year is a minimum for inspection and maintenance, and twice a year is usually better, especially if you have a good wind resource or experience frequent high winds or turbulence. Although some wind generator manufacturers say you can do a turbine and tower inspection with binoculars, we strongly recommend a more up-close approach: a hands-on, bottom-to-top, comprehensive annual inspection.
Most modern wind generators do not have parts that need to be routinely replaced, like the brushes or bearings of older machines. So routine maintenance is primarily focused on inspection of the whole machine, cleaning, and tightening hardware. The spinning turbine and wind forces acting on a tower can cause vibration, which can loosen or damage hardware, turnbuckles, and other tower and turbine components. These are the types of things to watch for during an inspection.
Get ready first (see “Maintenance Gear” sidebar), and prepare all the climbing gear, tools, supplies, and spare parts you may need for the job. Use a good checklist and a digital camera to record any problems found. And have all the equipment manuals available—you’ll be amazed at what you learn by reading them!
Before you climb the tower, there’s a lot of work to be done on the ground. In addition to inspecting the tower (see below), we like to do maintenance and troubleshooting in the power room before we climb. Finding problems on the ground prior to climbing will help us know what to look for aloft.
Turbine to Inverter/Controller Wire Run