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Smart sensors to optimise the performance of wind turbines

Country of Origin: Austria
Reference Number: TOAT20190605001
Publication Date: 5 June 2019

Summary

An Austrian SME develops sensor solutions consisting of multiple autonomous, thin and flexible sensors for precise ice detection and temperature measurement on rotor blades. This innovative, retrofittable product increases the energy yield of wind turbines and ensures their safe and optimal operation. Cost savings arise due to increased efficiency and a reduction in on-site inspections. The company is looking for partnerships for licence, commercial and technical agreements.

Description

Wind power represents approx. 25% of the new energy installed worldwide and it is estimated to become the most attractive energy segment by 2030. This is due both to its environmental benefits and to the attractive business opportunities it entails - the global wind power market is estimated to grow over €94.3 billion between 2017 and 2025. However, in order to effectively exploit this opportunity, wind plant owners need comprehensive solutions that enable them to efficiently manage their wind turbine components and to reduce their operational costs. To date, operation and maintenance of wind plants represent up to 35% of their total cost, mainly due to inefficient, complex and expensive maintenance approaches (e.g. based solely on visual on-site inspection).

The Austrian SME is active in sensor technologies and over the past 4 years has specialised in developing innovative monitoring solutions for wind power operators. Their first product involved a system for ice detection on blades (250 projects worldwide). More recently, they have developed an innovative wireless wind turbine blade monitoring solution that enables a constant remote assessment of the status of the turbine blades in real time via a 360º view. The innovation comprises two main components:

1. A series of flat, wireless, flexible sensors each containing a small solar cell for energy harvesting, an energy storage device and wireless communication hardware. These sensors (254x356x2mm) are sticker-like devices that are strategically placed anywhere on the outer surface of the blades (mainly on critical parts) without affecting aerodynamic properties. They measure e.g. temperature, ice thicknesses and blade vibrations, transmit the measured data wirelessly to the base station where it is processed and correlated with e.g. the structural health of the blade.
2. A base station (one per turbine) which is basically a computer connected to the turbine control with two antennas, which receives all vibration data (acquired 24 hours per day). A tailored intelligent software with specifically developed algorithms continuously analyses all the information received, monitoring it to detect deviations and to diagnose the status of the blades. The software provides condition outputs to plant operators, alerting them to damage to blades or conditions that require an inspection, allowing maintenance crews to intervene before small cracks become a big problem. In this way, the system predicts conditions where structural failure is a risk enabling a predictive maintenance approach.

The innovation allows for optimal wind turbine maintenance, which will increase the overall profitability of global wind farms' power generation. The monitoring solutions offered eliminate the need for regular checking and instead indicate when a visual inspection is advisable for early detection of potential faults and planning of any relevant repairs. This more profitable scenario will boost the installation of more wind plants in line with the global concerns towards greener energy production and sustainability.

Partners are sought who are interested in purchasing licences for the technology to address their sensor and measuring requirements. The SME is also interested in commercial agreement with technical assistance and technical cooperation partnerships in order to exploit new and/or develop existing areas of application in current or alternative sectors. Ideally, they would like to work with partners experienced in rail and air technology as well as in the power and renewables sector to further develop the functionality of the product in terms of ice detection, temperature measurement or SHM (structural health monitoring).
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Advantages and Innovations

- intelligent wireless monitoring system
- works on a continuous basis
- faster and more objective than manual inspections
- minimises the cost of human intervention for visual inspection while maximising maintenance operations
- perfect for retrofitting because of its simple adhesive design
- no impact on aerodynamic properties
- predictive approach which diagnoses small faults before they become major repair projects
- produces its own energy for data collection and transmission
- economically sound technology: according to preliminary (conservative) forecasts it is estimated that this product will reach a 0.25% share of the total wind turbines in the world after year three of market launch
- the ice detection system is already in operation on 250 wind turbines in Europe and North America, the CMS (condition monitoring system) and SHM have been installed on 10 wind turbines
- amortisation for both technologies ranges from a few months to 3 years depending on the number of sensors applied to the blades in addition to overall weather conditions

Stage Of Development

Already on the market

Stage Of Development Comment

Different measurands are already on the market (e.g. ice thicknesses, temperatures, etc.) and others are currently being introduced to the market (e.g. SHM of blades).

Requested partner

Partners with experience in rail infrastructure, renewable resources, power infrastructure and aircraft are of particular interest.  In addition organisations involved in condition monitoring (in harsh environments) are sought as well as operators/owners of facilities/machines/infrastructure who want to implement condition monitoring, condition-based maintenance, etc.

The SME wishes to work together with owners/operators of facilities in harsh environments to address their sensor and measuring needs. This coperation is envisaged as a technical cooperation agreement.

Cooperation with VARs (value added resellers) in the form of a commercial agreement with technical assistance is also of interest so that the parties can work together using the offered sensors to enhance and optimise an existing product range. The goal would be to find partners to exploit new and/or develop existing areas of application in current or alternative sectors. An ideal partner should have experience in rail, aeronautics, renewables or power transmission and can therefore contribute to further developing the product in terms of ice detection, temperature measurement or SHM.

Partners interested in licencing the technology are also of interest.

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