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Wind Turbine Gearbox Oil Analysis Strategy

Wind turbines have the potential to generate enough power to meet growing needs for electricity, diversify sources of energy, and reduce consumption of water and emission of pollutants such as carbon dioxide.

Barriers to widespread acceptance of wind turbines include their reliability and costs for operation and maintenance (O&M) of the equipment relative to alternative means of power generation. Lubricant-related failure, unexpected down time, and expensive unscheduled maintenance are problematic, especially for wind turbines in offshore locations.

According to Wind Energy Update's 2011 Operation and Management Report, as much as 66% of the O&M costs for some offshore wind turbines may be related to unplanned maintenance events. The Report notes that some wind turbine gearboxes are warrantied for 20 years but fail within eight years. Gearboxes are critical components of wind turbines.

A research and development initiative to improve gearbox reliability, headed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), seeks to improve the design process for wind turbine gearboxes. In addition, there is a growing need to efficiently manage the reliable operation and economical maintenance of in-service wind turbines now and in the future.

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