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Efficient maintenance -- EU research (2)

An EU-funded research and development project aimed at reducing the cost of wind energy to below EUR 40 MWh is being led by Spanish turbine maker Gamesa. The aim is to "create a new generation of more efficient and reliable wind turbines," says the company. Development of turbines that can be erected and dismounted in modular units to facilitate simple and fast maintenance work is a key way of achieving the aim, Gamesa adds. The project, "Reliawind," will run to 2010 as one of 44 selected from 328 contending for grants under an EU call for non-nuclear energy research and development projects under its seventh framework program. Reliawnd was the only wind project selected and is now eligible for a grant of up to EUR 5.5 million. The final amount is subject to the EU Commission's evaluation of Gamesa's estimated investment requirement of EUR 7.7 million.

Apart from the modular concept, Reliawind aims to improve component durability. It will develop component monitoring, early-warning systems, and fault prediction models, all to optimise the time spent on maintenance. Combined, Gamesa says it expects the methods and tools will reduce average repair time in offshore and onshore turbines by 50% and 20%, respectively. That, says Gamesa, will increase turbine availability from the current 85-95% offshore to 97% -98% and on land from 97-98% to 98-99%.

Reliawind involves nine other European companies and organisations working under Gamesa's baton, including component suppliers LM Glasfiber (blades), SKF (bearings) and ABB (power electronics and generators). Engineering consultancy Garrad Hassan is also participating, together with the universities of Durham, England, and Sztaki, Hungary. Contributions also come from wind plant operators, Iberdrola and Relex, as well as turbine maker Ecotècnia. Reliawind involves 78 different areas of work, each assigned to participating members according to speciality. This approach is "a demonstration of the project's commitment to attaining practical results directly applicable to turbine manufacturing," says Gamesa.

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