Turbine Inspections

Wind Turbine Maintenance Made Easy

Thumbnail image for a blog post on wind turbine maintenance

The appetite for wind energy is greater than ever. Still yet, developers are hardly getting much out of the boom.

How come? Think maintenance. 

Bear in Mind

Vector image on generating revenue through wind turbine O&M
Courtesy of Getty Images 

Behind every sustainable initiative is a return on investment (ROI). The same goes for wind farms, to which turbines are a vehicle not just to jumpstart the energy transition but shore up their bottom lines.

The problem with that is financial projections are generally set assuming the assets would see through their designated lifespan operating at optimal capacity. Sadly, such is seldom the case. 

Where Your Maintenance Efforts Stand

Maintenance personnel getting to work
Courtesy of DNV

Full-on breakdowns are few and far between. In fact, most modern-day turbines make it to the final days of their operational lives – around two or three decades, give or take – before getting decommissioned. 

That’s to say longevity doesn’t necessarily make up for a reliable barometer to gauge the consequences of proper or, by that token, inadequate maintenance. In this very instance, you might want to look at unintended curtailment instead. 

Let’s Talk Curtailment

Snapshot captured by NearthWIND

Barring extraordinary circumstances in which blades are deliberately feathered to prevent power outages from feeding the transmission grid too much energy, curtailment manifests in the form of aerodynamic drag and prolonged downtime, two of which go hand in hand. 

Here’s what we mean. 

A wind turbine is comprised of three major parts – the nacelle, tower, and rotor comprising three blades attached to a hub. 

Now, let’s say a tiny crack on the leading edge goes unnoticed. The lift-to-drag ratio starts to slip as the blade slowly loses the ability to capture the wind. Worse yet, the rest of the turbine is left to bear the brunt of excess fatigue loads, exposing both the nacelle and tower to rifts. 

What does all this amount to? Extensive downtime during which the turbine can generate several thousand dollars worth of energy. 

Maintenance Planning Checklist 

Courtesy of depositphotos 

The sheer magnitude of lost revenue is enough to zero in on maintenance. However, just as inadvisable is doing too much. Maintenance consists of cost-incurring activities. Overdoing it may end up dealing an unwanted blow to profit margins. 

The key is to tread the fine line between too little and too much maintenance. Among others, how each wind farm goes about striking that balance depends on the following factors.


The best maintenance is one in which the element of surprise is nowhere to be seen.

For that to be the case, operators must have a general sense of when and which component would give out so that they can address the issue at the outset or, better yet, before it breaks out. Doing so requires access to an extensive index of failure characteristics.

Unfortunately, industrial-scale deployment of wind energy is only about a couple of decades old, which, for the most part, isn’t enough time to put together a reliable, data-driven framework to base the predictions on. 

If you happen to have enough operational data in the vault to work off of, kudos to you – predictive maintenance has just gotten a lot easier. Otherwise, start keeping close track of failures and repairs. Or else, maintenance will long remain a game of possibilities.

Need help figuring out where to start? Check out fleetMONITOR from ONYX Insight.

An advanced condition monitoring software platform built upon a vast diagnostics portfolio of over 14,000 turbines spanning 95 models across 23 manufacturers, tapping into fleetMONITOR will go so far as to feed you with detailed real-time reports on potential faults based on well-established historical data, opening up the doors to saving up to 30 percent on O&M costs while ramping up annual energy production by two percent.


Graphic putting the height of different wind turbines into perspective

When it comes to mapping out maintenance strategies, size matters. And the general rule of thumb that rings true in most instances is larger the asset, the lower the operational cost. 

The logic behind it is relatively straightforward:

Bigger turbines -> Higher yield -> Less number of turbines to hit the energy quota -> Fewer maintenance orders per megawatt (MW) of output

A unique context in which such a principle doesn’t necessarily hold up is offshore. Though farms over waters boast higher output, arranging maintenance tasks – getting the supplies and technicians to the site, working through logistical barriers, etc. – tend to be way more complicated and costly.  

Average Cost 

Life would be easier had there been a one-size-fits-all approach to calculating maintenance costs. Reality, however, seldom accommodates ideal circumstances, and the best we have is a ballpark estimate. 

For older turbines, expect annual O&M charges to fall between three to five percent of the installation costs. The range drops to 1.5 to two percent for newer models, which amounts to about $42,000 to $48,000 per year. 

Now, be aware. The suggested numbers here posit that the equipment in question is an average-sized onshore turbine with a production capacity of two to three MW. Precisely how much your final cost turns out to be will largely depend on, environmental factors, size, and site conditions. 

Tools to Minimize Cost 

Partnership between Nearthlab and ONYX Insight

Estimation is one thing; cost-cutting is another. Thankfully, when it comes to minimizing O&M expenditures, there is an all-encompassing solution well-suited for wind farms of all stripes.

Enter complete turbine maintenance.

From blade inspections and drivetrain integration to fault diagnosis and enterprise management, the suite of services borne out of the latest partnership between Nearthlab and ONYX Insight gives in-house teams all the tools to supercharge maintenance efforts – whether that’d be preemptively catching component failures, prioritizing repair tasks based on defect severity and budgetary confinements, putting together analytics reports, or just conducting due diligence. 

Talk to one of our specialists to find out how we can help elevate your maintenance to new heights at a fraction of the cost.