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Working at heights in a Wind Turbine: can you afford not to understand, in detail, how that Production Plant works?

The common approach in the training of the Operation and Maintenance personnel in Wind Farms focus on two aspects:

a) how to be prepared for work at heights, and

b) how to repair/replace elements in the Wind Turbine.

However, the Nacelle in a Wind Turbine is an extremely dangerous working place: just consider how narrow is the space in it, and that you work side-by-side to a generator of considerable power. Assuming a 2MW Generator with very good electrical and mechanical performance, say 99%: that means that, in production, the Generator dissipate 20 KW. In reality, probably, several times this value. Of course, the Wind Turbine include devices to dissipate that heat away from the Nacelle, blowing air or circulating water through the Generator. But these devices are controlled by electronic devices and sensors, that may fail. Also, the Generator may develop internal short circuits that induce higher losses that must be dissipated. If you happen to be working at the Nacelle when one of these problems appear, you are going to be in very bad situation.

Other dangerous situations may happen during normal operation: for example, the disc brake, a device thought for fixing the movement of the Drive Train at stop state (‘parking’), may be actuated by the Wind Turbine Controller, if the air braking system do not work.  Actuating the disc brake to reduce the Drive Train from production state to stop state typically destroy the disc brake, and is considered an important failure, as the disc brake must dissipate a big power during short time. There are many incidences that may trigger this situation. If you are working at the Nacelle and this happens, you are going to have a very bad time.

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How to be prepared for these situations? There is no other way but to ‘practice’ in a Simulator. This is the same approach used in other industries, like petrochemical, where the delivery of a plant, or a subsystem in a plant, is preceded by the delivery of an Operator Training System, tailored for that plant, where the operations personnel may establish the protocols to cope with every imaginable situation, and practice them.

Simulators are also helpful for planning maintenance operations, as many of the essential elements are located at the Nacelle level, and, therefore, not accessible to take a look. For example, If there is a problem in the hydraulics system, you do not receive a diagnostic message, such as “pump broken”, or “valve2 broken”: the Controller emits messages that must be interpreted in order to “guess” the most probable cause(s) of the problem. Understanding all these messages is key to select the proper tools and required spare parts, and therefore reduce the time to repair.

In https://www.acm-sl.com/en/category/simulators you have a full set of simulators for the most common Wind Turbines actually installed in Wind Farms.