What Risks Does Corrosion Present for Renewable Assets?
Renewable energy has seen a rampant global upswing in recent decades. As clean energy continues to gain momentum on a more widespread scale, owners and operators have had to adjust their strategy for managing their assets. One major factor that can impact the lifespan of many renewable assets? Corrosion.
Steel Towers Constantly at Risk for Corrosion
Corrosion is a significant issue for any steel infrastructure that is subject to the elements without effective protection. Wind turbines are almost always supported by tubular steel or lattice towers and their overhead transmission networks often include steel poles. While both asset classes are designed with a protective coating or barrier system intended to protect the steel, failures or defects in those systems can open up base material to corrosive attack. And despite the fact that most wind assets are designed and built to last 20-25 years, corrosion can significantly reduce the operating lifespan if not managed properly.
Corrosion Can Hinder Performance Across a Wind Farm
Exposure to a multitude of elements – including extreme temperature cycles, UV light, moisture,salt, and even livestock – can make a steel tower vulnerable to corrosion. Other factors, mainly fabrication defects in the barrier coating system or installation errors that damage the coating, can also be contributing factors.
And despite its slow progression, corrosion can severely impact the structural performance and reliability of an asset. Understanding the various modes of failure and risk factors associated with different materials is critical to implementing an effective strategy that prevents costly remediation or even catastrophic failure of a structural asset.
Partner With A Third-Party Provider That Specializes in Corrosion Management
Many renewable energy organizations recognize the threat that corrosion poses to their assets. However, most don’t have the resources, experience, or bandwidth necessary to conduct a thorough assessment that properly identifies the risks throughout the site. Companies that self perform these types of inspections usually only examine the asset visually for evidence of damage. These techniques fail to fully assess what’s happening beneath the surface or internally with the asset, which could allow an undiagnosed issue to grow into something more costly for the owner.
The best way to properly identify and manage the risks related to corrosion of your structures is to partner with a third-party provider with specific expertise in this area. Look for a team with NACE & ASNT certifications which will ensure your provider has the right qualifications to establish and execute a proactive corrosion management program. A qualified vendor will utilize a full spectrum of techniques, including non-destructive testing methods that go beyond a basic visual inspection.
An effective program should include the following elements:
- Ultrasonic testing to check for material loss
- Corrosion mappings that locate and categorize potential corrosion damage and severity
- Structural analysis that evaluates future performance and required remediation
- Repair/replace/reinspection recommendations from the initial inspection
- Fleet wide data management strategies that yield actionable information for decision makers
Are you concerned about the effects corrosion may have on your steel assets within your renewable fleet? We can help. Contact Exo today to schedule a thorough site evaluation of your existing energy infrastructure.