Windfall in wind energy?

A worker performs uptower field service by reinstalling a nacelle’s roof. Photo courtesy of Moventas Gears Canada.

Despite political turbulence, Canada’s wind energy sector continues to gain strength, offering many opportunities for machine shops. To enter the wind energy supply chain, however, it helps to be fast, nimble, and capable of handling really big parts.

Installed wind energy capacity in Canada climbed to 12,816 MW in 2018 from 2,349 MW in 2008, enough to power approximately 3.3 million homes, according to the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA).

As of December 2018, there were 299 wind farms and 6,596 wind turbines in Canada, most of which have gearboxes (used to boost blade rotational power). Gears and gearboxes require parts and service, which is where machine shops come in.

Serving the wind sector

In Delta, B.C., Ideal Gear & Machine Works designs, manufactures, and refurbishes gears and assembles gearboxes for the forestry, mining, oil and gas, and power generation industries. The ISO 9001:2015-certified shop counts wind turbine gears as one if its niche specialties.

While there’s a lull in wind gearbox work at Ideal right now, the firm’s experience puts it in a good position for future assignments.

“Ideal Gear has made gearing for wind energy OEMs. In some cases, we made new parts for their product, and other times we would regrind existing gearing that is reused in their own rebuilds,” said Ideal Gear President Jim Mantei.

Such work is par for the course in the Canadian wind sector because there is no such thing as mass production of wind turbine gearboxes here.

“I do know a number of shops that are either [doing] refurbishing or up-engineering work,” explained Phil McKay, operations and maintenance program director at CanWEA.

Gearboxes are supposed to last the lifetime of the turbine, which is 20 to 30 years, he explained. While in service, gearboxes require upkeep and, sometimes,…

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