Maintaining Wind Turbines

Keep your wind turbine in tip-top condition with this maintenance schedule.

| June 2018

  • Wind turbines (even expensive commercial ones) are not something you can install and forget about!
    Photo by Pixabay/Pexels
  • “Homebrew Wind Power” by Dan Bartmann and Dan Fink will help you build and install your own wind turbine.
    Cover courtesy Buckville Publications

Homebrew Wind Power (Buckville Publications, 2009) by Dan Bartmann and Dan Fink provides step-by-step, illustrated instructions for building a wind generator in a home workshop. It covers the basic physics of how the energy in moving air is turned into electricity, and most importantly, will give you a realistic idea of what wind energy can do for you – and what it can't.

Regular maintenance

As we’ve tried to pound into your head repeatedly throughout this book, wind turbines (even expensive commercial ones) are not something you can install and forget about! We recommend that you follow the maintenance schedule outlined below, or some reasonable facsimile thereof.

For the first month after you first erect the turbine:

  • Shut it down while you are away, unless you are positive that winds will be gentle. After a month, you can leave it running while you are away (as long as you installed an automatic controller and dump load).
  • Watch it regularly, including monitoring power output.
  • Listen for strange sounds, sniff for strange smells, and watch for odd behavior.
  • Check the pendant cable from the turbine to the ground weekly to see how much it has twisted, unplug it at the tower base, untwist the wires, and plug it back in. This will give you some indication of how frequently you’ll need to check this in the future.
  • One month after you install the turbine, lower the tower and inspect everything, including the guy wire anchors, turnbuckles and cable clamps. Check all bolts on the turbine itself, and re-tighten if needed.

Six months after you erect the turbine:

  • Lower the tower (or climb a non-tilting tower), and firmly re-tighten all the bolts and nuts that hold together the blades and alternator.
  • If you used linseed oil to finish the blades and tail, re-apply it in another thick coat or two.
  • Check all guy wire anchors, turnbuckles and cable clamps.

Yearly (or every six months in harsh climates):

  • Lower the tower, (or climb a non-tilting tower), and check all the bolts and nuts that hold together the blades and alternator. Re-tighten as needed.
  • Apply more linseed oil finish to the blades, wooden hubs, and tail vane.
  • Check all guy wire anchors, turnbuckles and cable clamps.
  • Refresh the grease on the yaw bearing and tail pivot bearing. Grease the main bearing if needed. To do this, remove the cotter pin on the main bearing, remove the main bearing nut, and apply axle grease liberally to the bearings. Put the nut back and get it resonably tight, then back it off until you can insert the cotter pin. Once the cotter pin is in, back the nut off as much as the cotter pin allows. You do not want this nut tight, that would make the alternator too hard to turn.

Always:

  • Regularly check your pendant cable for twisting. If twisted, unplug it at the tower base when the wind is not blowing, untwist, and plug it back in. You should have an indication of how often this is needed by monitoring it closely for the first month the wind turbine is flying.
  • Listen, look and sniff for strange changes that might indicate a problem starting to happen. If you catch and fix problems right away, no damage is usually done to the turbine. If you let the problems get worse, they can cause other problems — an event cascade that can lead to total failure.
  • Monitor your power output—a big change in it could indicate a growing problem.
  • Watch the turbine — if something seems to run wobbly or just doesn’t seem “right,” the turbine probably needs adjustment. You can even use binoculars to check for loose nuts and bolts and such.
  • Enjoy the fact that you are making electricity for your power system using the free “fuel” of the wind!

Alternator Adjustments

Most alternator adjustments can be made by re-positioning the stator between the magnet rotors. This might be needed if the stator mount loosens or gets out of whack, or if the magnet rotors start scraping against the stator. However, in rare cases you may need to remove the front magnet rotor to replace the stator — for example if you are upgrading your power system to a different voltage, or if the stator becomes damaged. It’s a fairly simple operation. This procedure requires special tools called “jacking screws” to force the magnet rotors apart, which you probably fabricated for that chapter. Follow the same slow and steady procedure you used to assemble the alternator, in reverse, if you need to take it apart.


This excerpt is from Homebrew Wind Power) by Dan Bartmann and Dan Fink, published by Buckville Publications, 2009.



SeanT
7/13/2018 10:27:53 AM

The advice outlined in this article should be carefully considered as the intended audience for this information is not very clear. If you have not built your own wind turbine and purchased one from a manufacturer you should follow the maintenance activities / schedule as specified by that manufacturer. Not all turbines require the same maintenance or even the same maintenance intervals. Additionally, these activities should be left to qualified personnel. Climbing towers, tilting towers, inspecting electrical cables/components, and inspecting mechanical components can all be dangerous tasks if you are not properly trained. If you have built your own wind turbine the same cautions should be applied. Even more so if you are dealing with more involved tasks such as re-positioning the stator between the magnet rotors. As an engineer who does safety and performance evaluations of both small and large wind turbines I have seen my fair share of the potential dangers if sufficient care is not taken. Wind power, on all scales, can be a safe energy source when properly installed and maintained.


SeanT
7/13/2018 10:22:51 AM

The advice outlined in this article should be carefully considered as the intended audience for this information is not very clear. If you have not built your own wind turbine and purchased one from a manufacturer you should follow the maintenance activities / schedule as specified by that manufacturer. Not all turbines require the same maintenance or even the same maintenance intervals. Additionally, these activities should be left to qualified personnel. Climbing towers, tilting towers, inspecting electrical cables/components, and inspecting mechanical components can all be dangerous tasks if you are not properly trained. If you have built your own wind turbine the same cautions should be applied. Even more so if you are dealing with more involved tasks such as re-positioning the stator between the magnet rotors. As an engineer who does safety and performance evaluations of both small and large wind turbines I have seen my fair share of the potential dangers if sufficient care is not taken. Wind power, on all scales, can be a safe energy source when properly installed and maintained.




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