Engineering company Sincro Mecánica helps to make sure ageing turbines stay productive at Spain’s leading wind farms.
In Spain, many wind farms are situated in remote, rugged, mountainous terrain, where generators are subjected to harsh environmental conditions. Improved pitch technology – the ability to alter the angle of the blades to deal with variable wind speed and power demands – places increasing strain on turbine powertrains, as does the installation of higher towers to take advantage of stronger winds. The need for top-quality, time-responsive maintenance and repair is paramount, especially for the mechanisms that translate rotation into power generation. Meanwhile, as Spain’s wind turbine installations mature, many of the turbines are coming out of warranty. This is where Sincro Mecánica comes in.
Sincro Mecánica specializes in maintenance and repair of out-of-warranty wind power drivetrains, carrying out complex gearbox repairs both on-site and at the company’s state-of-the-art plant in Narón, A Coruña. “There are close to 19,000 wind turbines installed nationally,” says Operations Director Carlos Garabato Gándara. “Our growth is directly related to the number of generators that are coming out of warranty.”
Sincro Mecánica is fully equipped to dismantle, ship and reinstall turbine machinery from the most remote sites, providing a total evaluation, strip-down and rebuild service that includes load testing and reverse engineering (for cases in which original specifications and plans are not available). The company’s engineers also provide on-site predictive maintenance using visual and remote inspections, vibration analysis and thermography to identify potential problems.
Sincro Mecánica’s current capacity for turbine repairs is about 200 machines a year, and its management is optimistic about the future. Juan José Taibo, Sincro Mecánica’s general manager, points out, “With the economic uncertainty in 2011 and 2012, maintenance and repair are better placed than manufacturing.”
The market is becoming more aggressive and competitive, Taibo continues. “Since 2011 we have seen an increase in the turnover of operators of wind farms, and there is more competition in international manufacturing. But there are opportunities. We are developing strategic partnerships with wind turbine manufacturers with a view to undertake warranty repairs as well as expand our market share of out-of-warranty servicing and repairs.”
“We’ve come a long way from the days of small mechanical projects in the 1940s,” says the group’s CEO, José Ramón Franco Caaveiro, “and although our emphasis at the moment is on the domestic market, our vision is to seize the potential of the global market. Our policy of long-term investment in plant, training and technological innovations is one from which all our customers will continue to benefit. Repairs and servicing are parallel to manufacturing, and with increasing efficiency we are able to stay competitive.”
SKF and wind power maintenance
With the largest global network of authorized distributors, SKF is uniquely positioned to deliver tailor-made solutions for customers quickly and effectively. SKF supplies powertrain components and seals to Sincro Mecánica through its Certified Maintenance Partner (CMP) Epidor. SKF also delivers training solutions to Sincro Mecánica engineers.
With the SKF WindCon 3.0 condition monitoring system, operators can monitor the true condition of major wind turbine components in real time and implement cost-effective maintenance. SKF has applied this proprietary technology to more than 3,000 wind turbines worldwide.
Spanish wind power at full blast
Spain has become a global leader in the growth of onshore wind-generated power, with a stable rate of growth that continues to defy global economic uncertainty. Spanish firms Acciona, Iberdrola and Gamesa Eolica – all Sincro Mecánica customers – are among the world’s largest wind farm developers and operators. With steady annual growth in capacity (excluding a sharp downturn in 2009), Spain generated about 43,600 GWh of electricity from wind power in 2010, with the sector turning over almost 3 billion euros. Spain overtook Germany that year in terms of installed generating capacity and currently ranks fourth after China, India and the United States.
Challenges for the industry in Spain include improving and integrating the distribution system and developing offshore wind farms. Denmark and Britain, with a wider area of continental shelf than Spain, currently lead the offshore wind sector. They are putting considerable effort into developing the viability of floating generator towers.
Text and photos Richard Surman