Do wind turbines hold 400 gallons of oil? It is true that a lot of oil goes into the gearbox of a wind turbine, but can it truly be hundreds of gallons?
Modern-day wind turbines are highly efficient and they are huge as well. And obviously, they need lubrication oil for proper functioning.
This is when people ask, “how many gallons of oil does a wind turbine hold?”
The truth is that when empty, wind turbines can hold hundreds of gallons, but they are still not able to hold 400 gallons of oil.
The Importance of Oil for Wind Turbines and How They Use It
Wind turbines are machines with moving parts.
And like any machine, it needs lubricating to avoid the unnecessary wear and tear caused by friction but there are other factors at work.
The Usefulness of Lubrication Oil
As the industry grows, turbines are being installed in remote areas with space and wind, although the local environment may be less than ideal in other ways.
Airborne dust and sand particles are highly abrasive.
They can cause micro-pitting on wind turbine gears and bearings, although each turbine is still expected to work at optimal efficiency.
The moving parts in every gear-based turbine are placed under enormous torque pressures as the blades rotate.
Micro-pitting by corrosion or grit on the gears or bearings creates an imbalance in the blades’ rotation.
At high speeds, the wobble can cause the whole turbine unit to vibrate and become dangerously unstable.
How Do Lubrication Oils help?
To reduce wear and tear and micro-pitting, each turbine is installed with an oil filter just for the gearbox.
Also, the oil is kept separate from the cooling system to help keep it clean.
The goal is to achieve maximum performance for greater productivity with minimal wear on the turbine’s many moving parts.
Fact: It is possible to power your home with a backyard turbine, while one commercial turbine is capable of powering up to 600 homes.
What is Lubrication Oil for Wind Turbines Made Of?
The lubrication oil used in the vast majority of in-service wind turbines is a mixture of lubricants.
Mostly the oil and greases are synthetically produced polyalphaolefin, a synthetic hydrocarbon.
This manufactured oil has a high viscosity to thoroughly lubricate and remains relatively stable without oxidizing.
It has the advantage that it flows well even at lower temperatures.
The Limitations of Polyalphaolefin
Although it gets the job done, polyalphaolefin doesn’t blend well with the other lubricants the machine needs.
Therefore, another synthetic base oil that does mix with it needs to be added before the mix can be used.
Other downsides to polyalphaolefin are:
- It doesn’t biodegrade efficiently
- It is not fire-resistant because it is oil-based
It also reacts negatively with some of the turbine’s more delicate parts, such as its seals, so if left, the unit starts to leak.
Fact: Hawaii is home to the world's most massive wind turbine, with its height being 20 floors, and each blade as long as a football field.
Do Wind Turbines Hold 400 Gallons of Oil?
The wind power industry is getting better now, but in its infancy, it was the subject of much layperson interest and speculation.
Vast amounts of oil being inside is one such urban myth.
Although, if empty, the volume of some turbine shells could hold hundreds of gallons of liquid, there is nowhere that amount in reality, and some are grease.
How Many Gallons of Oil Does a Wind Turbine Hold?
How many gallons of oil a wind turbine holds depends on the kind of wind turbine, its size, and how old it is.
The enormous turbines used in offshore wind farms need a lot more lubrication to stave off seawater corrosion than a significantly smaller home use turbine needs.
Within the wind power industry, as the technology to build ever larger turbines is being developed, each generation of wind-powered turbines is designed for greater efficiency.
You can witness that efficiency in:
- How long do its parts last
- The materials used to construct it
- Where it can be located
- How it is transported and installed
- Its annually produced energy
The aim is to be less reliant on expensive maintenance but also on becoming greener.
Fact: There are quicker, more consistent winds higher in the atmosphere, leading to the production of tall turbines, which can generate greater because of the increased velocity of the winds.
Lubrication Oil Used in Large Wind Turbines
One of many supermassive machines is already installed and delivering electricity to a national grid.
The SG 14-222 DD offshore Direct Drive turbine with a 14-megawatt capacity and super-sized 39000m2 sweep, was developed by Siemens Gamesa.
It is innovative wind power technology, using a ‘permanent magnet generator’ and direct drive.
The SG 14-222 DD, because of its enormous 222m rotor diameter, is already proving super-efficient.
It is showing more than a 25% increase in annual energy production when compared to earlier offshore turbine models.
The Reliance on Lubrication Oil
The technology used in the SG 14-222 DD represents a huge leap forward for the wind power industry.
Not only is it more efficient, but individual units are lighter, easier to install and require less maintenance.
Many of the parts are manufactured from recycled materials and many more can be recycled on decommissioning, including the super-long blades.
There are no heavy gears, in fact, the turbine has fewer moving parts overall.
This could herald the end of the industry having to rely on huge amounts of synthetically produced oil just at a time when ‘bigger is better’.
Gallons of Oil Used in One Wind Turbine
Depending on the size of the turbine as much 60 gallons of lubrication can be used.
It is usually enough to keep all the turbine’s parts, the gears, bearings, and hydraulic systems well lubricated and the machine operating at maximum efficiency.
This also includes hydraulic fluid. Smaller turbines use less, as do the very latest models.
How Often is Oil Change in a Wind Turbine?
With advances in the production of suitable wind turbine lubricants, the intervals between oil changes can be as long as 16 months.
It was 8 to 12 months.
Since there is ongoing research in the field of turbine lubricants, it is hoped this interval could eventually be extended to as much as 3 years.
How Much Oil Does a Wind Turbine Gearbox Hold?
Most of the oil goes into the gearboxes along with other synthetic industrial lubricants.
How much oil is needed to fill a turbine gear box depends on the size of the wind turbine but in an older, smaller wind turbine a mere 10 gallons were needed.
These days, with the huge increases in size, it takes nearly 80 gallons to completely fill the main and ancillary gearboxes.
The Role of Oil in Wind Turbine Maintenance Schedules
Wind turbine efficiency is closely monitored. Dips in output can be a developing issue with a part.
Usually, wind turbines undergo scheduled maintenance at least twice a year during low production periods when the unit can be brought completely offline.
Much of the expense incurred maintaining turbines, including the lost output per unit, is in some way related to managing its lubrication.
The Use of Oil and the Maintenance Cost of Wind Turbines
During maintenance, the bearings, generator and gearbox are physically inspected, cleaned and lubricated.
The expense in lubricants, man-hours, equipment, and offline time is given to maintaining just one turbine has been described as wind power’s Achilles heel, around $200,000.
Being reliant on oil-based lubricants the technology is not considered green enough by the wind power industry but remains committed to delivering clean, renewable energy.
There are already others like the SG 14-222 DD being installed and tested, but there is a long way to go.
Fact: The maximum amount of electricity that offshore wind turbines might generate is four times greater than what the current electrical grid in the United States can handle.
Do wind turbines hold 400 gallons of oil? Although it is natural to wonder how much oil does a wind turbine hold, it is definitely not close to 400 gallons.
Some larger turbines may be able to hold a few hundred gallons of fluids, but it just cannot be up to 400 gallons.
In fact, many modern-day turbines, like the SG 14-222 DD are so fine and cost-effective that they do not rely much on lubrication oil.
So, with these turbines, the need to hold enough oil is already coming down, which is actually a step in the right direction.