‘Dirty’ Burradale turbine blades undergo 10 million mile service

The German team at work on one of the turbines at Burradale. Photo: Jim Nicolson
The German team at work on one of the turbines at Burradale. Photo: Jim Nicolson

After running for over eight years and “travelling” 10 million miles, the blades of the oldest wind turbines at Burradale are undergoing a service.

As the tips of the blades move at more than 150 miles per hour, calculations by operators Shetland Aerogenerators established that since they started turning the blades have each travelled 10 million miles so far.

The firm has employed a team of engineers from Germany to undertake the work, which includes cleaning, inspection, maintenance and repairs, if necessary, to each blade and the connections to the turbines.

The engineers, of L & L Rotorservice from Basdahl near Bremen, are expected to be in Shetland for another two weeks, with the first week of works having been completed.

The decision to commission the blades’ service was time based, company director Angus Ward said, as the oldest – the phase one turbines – have been running for eight and a half years and have picked up dirt which can greatly affect their performance.

Although the phase two turbines are a few years younger, they are also being serviced. Turbine five in particular, nicknamed Karen, has picked up an unusual amount of “environmental discolouration” – or dirt – and will benefit from being cleaned.

Mr Ward said: “Even tiny changes to the surface of the blades can make a difference to the aerodynamics so it is cost effective for us to keep them in good order.” Owing to the specialist work entailed in the cleaning of the turbines, the company has had to bring in the specialist team from Germany to complete the works.

Mr Ward said: “This isn’t just a case of washing off the dirt. It involves things like material condition testing and vibration and balance analysis so it needs specialist workmen.”

He added however that the work is an example of the type of employment that islanders could benefit from should the Viking Energy project go ahead.

He said: “We’re spending tens of thousands of pounds on something that could be done locally. Shetland must play its part in providing energy beyond the oil and gas era and that will mean large projects. Large projects will mean local jobs. The work we’ve commissioned is the kind of skilled engineering that would make a good career for someone sitting in a Shetland classroom right now.”

The turbines at Burradale were installed in 2001, with the final of the five put on the hill in December 2002.

Despite some technical problems in the early days, they have worked successfully ever since.


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