Three Reasons Why Studying Wind Turbines is a Good Idea

February 26, 2016

I travelled to Toronto in February to participate in CanWEA’s second annual Wind Energy Operations and Maintenance Summit. I can’t share everything I learned in 750 words so I’ve picked a theme and will share a sampling that hopefully provides a sense of how evolution in Canada’s growing operations and maintenance industry can benefit wind energy stakeholders and ultimately consumers who want clean, reliable electricity at an affordable price.

1 The better you know your turbine and the wind flow, the more you can increase energy production.

We learned a lot about this! “We take complex machines and put them into a complex environment with completely unbounded wind flows. There is value in resolving these complexities,” said RWDI’s Ben Coulson in a fascinating panel on energy analysis and emerging technologies and approaches. “We need to improve the data we start with if we are to improve performance,” explained SgurrEnergy’s Gareth Brown in the same session. A case study from this panel that illustrated the opportunity for me was the story by Arista’s Anthony Crockford of the blade that lost a glued-on piece of equipment designed to improve performance. The data seemed to show that performance dropped after the addition fell off but upon closer analysis, the difference was due to a change in the wind speed measurement, instead of a loss of wind turbine performance.


Left to right: Gareth Brown, Director of Canadian Operations, SgurrEnergy; Anthony Crockford, Renewable Energies Consultant; Arista, Ben Coulson, Project Director, RWDI. Panellists at the 2nd Annual CanWEA Wind Energy Summit in Toronto, February 24, 2016.

2 You can reduce wear and tear and extend the life of a turbine or its parts.

Among the many presentations and case studies that made the case for using data and analysis to achieve gains in this area, one example that stood out for me was the Quebec story of the Le Nordais turbines sited on a cliff as told by Fraser Kinnear, a mechanical wind engineer in training with TransAlta in his presentation on a panel on blade inspection and repair. He made a strong case for “carefully re-evaluating your site conditions and loading post commissioning” with great examples of how doing so “can help in your long term planning and budgeting.” He explained if you site a turbine on a cliff, for example, the wind will hit the turbine in ways not necessarily anticipated by the design. If your engineering and operations folks study the differences in design-anticipated wind flows and actual wind flows, choices can be made to adapt – such as changing blade pitch or setting the blades to stop at a different wind speed than first decided – the result will be an extension of the life of the blades and optimized performance.


Fraser Kinnear, Wind Mechanical Engineer in Training, TransAlta Corporation, presenting on Blade Inspection and Repair at the 2nd Annual CanWEA Wind Energy Summit in Toronto, February 24, 2016.

3 You will improve conditions for workers and their safety.

“If you don’t get shocked you don’t get burned.” The double meaning of these words by Mike Doherty, who closed the first day with a session on safety, was not lost on delegates. His message was clear – you need to know your equipment, conditions, technical requirements and accompanying rules of safety. Know the rules. Follow the rules. Train people. Take safety seriously. Hold people accountable. It saves lives. It saves equipment. It saves money.


Mike Doherty, Director of Learning and Continual Improvement with Shermco Industries Canada Inc addressing delegates on the topic of implementing electrical safety risk management into everyday work procedures at the 2nd Annual CanWEA Wind Energy Summit in Toronto, February 24, 2016.

P.S. I can’t not mention this funny observation that Rupp Carriveau from University of Windsor so handily addressed from the podium while moderating the panel mentioned above about energy analysis to improve performance – not everyone pronounces the word turbine the same way! It seems beyond Canada’s borders it is pronounced tur-bin (as in urban). Rupp called it the white elephant in the room and declared “there is an ‘e’ on the end people – that gives the ‘i’ the long vowel sound“ which of course means there should be no debate :>)


Moderator: Dr. Rupp Carriveau, Director, ENtelligence Research, University of Windsor, moderating the session titled Energy Analysis/Emerging Technologies and Approaches, at the 2nd Annual CanWEA Wind Energy Summit in Toronto, February 25, 2016.

P.P.S. Looking for an exciting job in the wind energy industry? All this talk about O&M, perhaps you might know someone who would like to work with CanWEA. We are hiring for the new position of O&M Program Director. This senior position will be fully dedicated to building and growing CanWEA’s O&M related activities. You can find the job posting here. Application deadline March 16. Please share it!

Tracy Walden
Director of Media and Communications at the Canadian Wind Energy Association.