When it comes to wind energy, it seems reasonable to assume that the windiest months produce the most energy. Not so, says Chris Jimenez, operations manager for the Fire Island Wind Project.
“The optimal range is 10 to 13 meters per second, so not overly windy,” he said. In January, wind conditions that hit right in the “sweet spot,” as Jimenez calls it, helped Fire Island Wind achieve record production: 7,260 megawatt hours of clean, sustainable wind energy delivered to Anchorage homes.
But wind conditions weren’t the only reason the project performed so well. Maintenance activities generally fall under one of two categories: preventive (maintenance designed to retain the healthy condition of equipment and prevent failure) or corrective (tasks performed to resolve equipment failure). According to Jimenez, a comprehensive protocol of preventive maintenance had already helped Fire Island Wind achieve consistently high availability.
For example, during an aerial survey of the turbine blades in spring 2017, the team realized that wind had eroded some of the blade tips. Jimenez orchestrated transporting contractors to the island to carry out the repairs. Crews began by climbing 260 feet to the nacelle – the housing at the center of the blades – then rappelling 130 feet down on ropes to the blade tips. There, they chipped away the damage and applied new epoxy material to preserve the integrity of the blades.
“It’s a preventative measure to stop the damage from getting any worse, and it’s done in a way that minimizes the amount of downtime for the operation,” Jimenez said.
Fire Island Wind began operations in the fall of 2012. Last year, General Electric Company (GE) took over as the operations and maintenance (O&M) provider. Since that time, Jimenez said he and the O&M team have focused not only on routine maintenance, but predictive maintenance – that is, collecting real-time data to predict when a failure is most likely to occur. Unlike preventive or corrective maintenance, predictive maintenance usually happens while equipment is operating, thereby reducing lost production time.
“The GE folks have really gone above and beyond,” Jimenez said. “They have an ‘if we win, they win’ approach. It’s really helped the project sustain its availability.”
In 2016, Fire Island Wind was lauded by GE as one of the top four wind energy projects in the country. The data looked at a project’s ability to produce energy, given appropriate wind conditions. Fire Island Wind showed consistently high availability, averaging 98.6 percent availability over the calendar year—an impressive percentage by industry standards. In January, it averaged 99 percent availability.
About the Fire Island Wind Project
A wind turbine project three miles off the coast of Anchorage, Fire Island Wind supplies clean, renewable energy to approximately 7,000 homes in Southcentral Alaska. The project is owned by Fire Island Wind LLC, a CIRI company. Through a long-term power purchase agreement with Anchorage utility Chugach Electric Association, Fire Island Wind eliminates up to 500 million cubic feet of natural gas consumption annually. For more information, visit www.fireislandwind.com.