Electromechanical engineer Houghton International is renowned for its pioneering advancements in life-extending electro-mechanical assets, boasting a track record of successful, world-first projects across a wide range of sectors. But its most recent project has solidified the repairer as a true renewables pioneer – being the first company ever to fully project manage, repair, life-extend and recommission an Enercon direct drive wind turbine.

This groundbreaking success has encouraged Houghton International to introduce the industry’s first end-to-end repair and life-extension service for wind turbine generators, main shafts, ancillary motors and blades. The offering comes on the back of the company’s recent announcement on expanding its Byker-based facility, that will reduce lead times by roughly 30% with improved handling and process efficiency.

The revitalisation and extended lifespan of direct-drive wind turbines present a promising prospect for the renewables industry. Globally, wind farms can now adopt a cost-effective remedy for premature shutdowns or weather-affected motors, generators, and main shaft hubs. Breathing new life into damaged or life-expired wind turbines results in a carbon-neutral process and faster turnaround compared to replacing such units with new.

The highly challenging project on the weather-beaten Faroe Islands brought new levels of complexity given the finite weather windows available to safely dismantle and reassemble wind turbines, alongside the company being the primary contractor for the first time, organising all aspects of the project, including all diagnostics, safety, lifting, main-shaft and blade removal.

Houghton International’s CEO, Michael Mitten, commented: “We realised a new way to add significant value in the market was to integrate all aspects of the repair process, which meant securing the services of specialist sub-contractors with deep knowledge of Enercon turbines, as well as lifting, blade repair and logistics partners. Pulling the whole thing together was a significant challenge, and without those specialists on board we couldn’t have stood a chance of safely delivering such a project.”

Upon discovering the issue, the energy supplier promptly sought the expertise of Houghton’s electro-mechanical specialists, who had successfully life-extended an Enercon E48 turbine in Wales.

Houghton International not only fully rewound both stator and rotor of the Enercon E44 turbine’s main generator, but also significantly improved its operational life-cycle with their pioneering upgrade in design and new processes. They also overhauled the main-shaft hub assembly including the main bearing and pitch motors while repairing local damage on the blades, thus restoring the turbine to operational status within only six months. A new unit would take 18-24 months to deliver.

Mitten added: “We are delighted with the outcome of this project because we have a happy customer with a turbine generating clean energy at a cost less than that of new, and delivered within at least a third of the timescale, saving many tonnes of CO2 emissions and supporting their need to generate 100% of the Faroe Island’s energy needs from renewables by 2030.

“The investments we are now making to create a dedicated 22,000sqft (2,000sq m) facility with a 7.5m wide doorway and brand new 20 tonne cranage will allow us to reduce lead times considerably for all kinds of direct drive and conventional geared-drive turbine generators, which complements our end to end offering of full project management, alongside our specialist sub-contractor partners. As the world continues to electrify, we see the role of OEMs is to supply more renewables capacity to the world, while we ensure that older turbines keep running the in most cost, time and carbon efficient way possible.”