Offshore wind-turbine monitoring

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Strathclyde engineers are helping to develop and demonstrate a new monitoring system that could reduce the cost of generating electricity from offshore wind farms

The £5m condition-monitoring project is funded by the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI), and is being led by UK-based wind turbine blade monitoring specialist Insensys in partnership with Strathclyde, EDF Energy, E.ON, Romax Technology, and SeeByte.

The consortium will develop and demonstrate advanced systems to monitor the condition and performance of turbines and predict future maintenance requirements for key components so they can be corrected before expensive damage occurs.

Systems will be installed on onshore wind turbines and tested for 18 months with a further year of tests planned for offshore wind turbines, to demonstrate the benefits and savings.

It is estimated that increased output, through reduced downtime and reduced maintenance costs, could result in a benefit of up to £50,000 per turbine, per year.

Prof Bill Leithead of the university’s Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, said: ‘Offshore wind farms have enormous potential, but the difficulties of maintaining any piece of equipment offshore remains high. So it is imperative not only that offshore wind farms are extremely reliable and efficient but that proactive operation and maintenance strategies are adopted.’

Dr David Clarke, chief executive at the ETI, said the new system will monitor the condition of wind turbines, which should increase their availability and lead to lower generation costs.

He added: ‘The project will develop accurate models for predicting potential damage and fatigue to turbines providing early warnings and identifying the causes of possible component failures before expensive repairs are needed or the turbine fails. It will also aim to identify the causes of fatigue, which should allow early action to be taken to increase reliability.’

Dr Toby King, chief executive officer at Insensys, said: ‘We believe that this project will increase the output and reliability of wind turbines by detecting the causes of component damage and enabling them to be corrected, before the damage occurs. For example, many turbines today operate with blade imbalances, which can rapidly lead to expensive gearbox and bearing damage, and yet are easy to correct.’

The turbine-monitoring system will cover all aspects of a turbine including the blades, bearings, gearbox, generator, power electronics and support structures.

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