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Wind turbine maintenance and gambler's fallacy

On Tuesday November 10th of 2015, in La Meuse (France) the three blades of a wind turbine fell off their masts, crushing the operator station in their fall. In 2018, 10% of global wind farm incidents were due to machine blades, 7% of which were due to blade falls. The costs of repairs related to these incidents are very high. Remember that the simple transport of a blade costs about 15 000€.

When such a severe event happens to us, we tend to fix it and think that the problem will not happen again. After all, “lightning never strikes twice in the same place”. We are all making a big mistake by following this belief because lightning today has the same chance of striking in a specific place as it had yesterday. Our brains lead us to give too much weight to past events in the belief that they will have an impact on future random events. That’s the gambler’s fallacy. It is the same mechanism that leads us all to believe that after tossing 10 heads in a row the next flip would be more likely to come up tails rather than heads again.

The gambler’s fallacy is just one example among a long list of cognitive biases that prevent us from making rational decisions every day. However, some of our activities require total rationality, in particular the management of our assets. It is up to us to fight against our reflexes and biases to make decisions that are in line with our objectives!

For the maintenance of our wind turbines, the golden rule is, as you have understood, elementary: “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure”.

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