Ellery Manufacturing has been a preferred supplier of machining services to the energy sector for more than 43 years. Over time we've watched the energy industry transform from a heavy reliance on non-renewable fossil fuels (oil & gas, coal) towards the development of renewable, green energy sources such as wind, solar, hydro, tidal, geothermal and biomass.
Balancing the global need for energy with environmental concerns is a challenge that is only becoming more critical. The world's consumption rate of energy is continuing to grow but most would agree that we can't afford to keep relying on non-renewable sources of energy for all our needs.
Growing demand and climate change urgency along with heavy investment in production, technology and research is helping to accelerate the growth of the renewable energy industry. By the year 2030, more than 50% of installed energy generating capacity will be renewable with 38% of this capacity built around wind and solar. Its estimated that investment in green energy will total $3.4 Trillion (US) within 10 years.
Benefits of CNC Machining for Energy Part Production
CNC Machining offers many benefits when it comes to the production of parts for the renewable energy sector.
CNC machining is capable of producing complex parts.
Parts can be produced with high quality finishes and precision.
CNC machined parts are consistent.
CNC machine processes allow for the flexibility to handle high volume production or short run custom jobs.
Its possible to produce larger parts.
CNC machining can be used to perform fast repairs or modifications to existing parts in a timely, economical manner, helping to keep costs and downtime to a minimum.
Renewable energy projects are only as effective as the technology, equipment and machinery that make them run. Renewable energy installations must operate with a high degree of efficiency and reliability in order to keep their carbon impact low while allowing for the maximum generation of power. High quality parts produced using CNC machining are critical to the long-term success of any renewable energy project.
What Role does CNC Machining Play in Specific Renewable Energy Sectors?
There are opportunities for CNC machining with every type of energy project but for the purposes of this post we'll focus on the three key sectors of Wind, Solar and Hydro.
Wind power production requires durable parts that are capable of coping with massive stress while providing a high level of precision. In addition to the turbine's blades, common wind turbine parts produced using CNC machining include most of the key drive components located inside the turbine's nacelle housing. These would include gears, gearbox housings, rotors, main shafts, generator frames, brake components, Hubs and YAW system components. CNC machining is also usually used to machine the many high precision holes required in the turbine's heat exchange plates.
In addition to drive components, CNC machining is perfect for the production of the giant pitch bearings used as part of the wind turbine's blade angle adjustment mechanism. These bearings play a critical role in the turbine's ability to operate at maximum effectiveness and safety by adjusting the blade angle to match changing wind conditions. These bearings are best produced using CNC machining based on their size and high precision requirements.
The role for CNC machining in the production of solar panels themselves is limited but an opportunity still exists for machine shops with the equipment to produce support components such as panel frames, back rails and carrier rails. These types of parts require a significant amount of cutting, milling and drilling work.
The shear size, precision and durability of the parts required to run a hydropower turbine makes them a perfect fit for CNC machining. Parts such as shafts, bushings, turbine housings, impellers and covers need to be capable of handling immense pressure and water damage and are often made from material such as carbon and stainless steel which can be best worked on using CNC machining. In addition to turbine parts another opportunity for CNC machine shops includes the fabrication and machining of gates for dams and hydropower stations.
In many cases the parts produced, such as hydroelectric turbines, can only be made using CNC machines with the capabilities to turn and mill larger parts that can vary widely in scale. Some turbines may be as "small" as 16' diameter (25 tons) with some larger items being in the range of 42' diameter (350 tons) or larger.
The Future Looks Bright
CNC machining provides a high level of value and benefits with regards to the production of parts for renewable energy projects. The parts produced can vary in size, they can be machined from materials well suited to operating within a wide variety of environments, and the parts can be produced with a high level of durability, precision and consistency which is critical to the effectiveness and safety of renewable energy solutions.
Ellery Manufacturing has produced parts for all sectors of the energy industry. While still heavily invested in the production of parts for the exploration and extraction of fossil fuels we appreciate the need for alternative energy sources and we recognize the opportunities that the renewable sector can offer. Like the energy sector itself our business is transforming into a diverse supplier that is capable of meeting the needs of the entire energy industry, producing parts for both non-renewable and renewable / green energy projects.