Innovation in Blade Damage Detection
Aero-Acoustic Tool to Monitor Wind Turbines
Up to 23 per cent of wind turbine failures can be caused by blade damage, with up to 25–30% of wind farm operation costs spent on operation and maintenance. Current damage detection options are limited and are used on an ad hoc basis at each turbine. New innovations on the market are now allowing wind farm operators to keep a closer eye on turbines while also reducing time and resources spent on monitoring. One such solution is ping.monitor, which is an innovative acoustic solution and a world-first application of aero-acoustic analysis for wind turbine maintenance and repair. It represents an efficient and responsive monitoring system.
Up to 23 per cent of wind turbine failures can be caused by blade damage. Corrective maintenance entails high costs for repair and replacement and large revenue losses due to inactivity and catastrophic failure. Ping.monitor is a new solution on the market.
The rotor blade has a relatively large failure frequency compared with other elements: around 23% of the total number of turbine breakdowns. Operation and maintenance (O&M) has been shown to contribute to around 25–30% of the total costs of offshore wind power. Corrective maintenance is the most common approach, following an annual survey of the rotor blades. Maintenance following the detection of a blade defect, or in the worst case a blade failure, can entail high costs for repair and replacement activities as well as large revenue losses, particularly in the case of offshore wind farms. Preventive maintenance provides the potential for predicting the blade’s remaining life to support O&M decisions and avoid major failure events. It is logical that the larger wind farm operators who own and operate thousands of turbines are looking for solutions to reduce their costs and concurrently increase turbine efficiencies.
The Inefficiencies of Occasional Inspection
Drones, hi-res photography on-site or manual inspection, involving costly and slow, turbine-by-turbine surveying, are used within the wind turbine sector as best practice. Industry-standard monitoring practice is to check each turbine every 12 months. Thus, if damage occurs to a turbine, that turbine is potentially operating in a substandard fashion for up to a year. This unreported damage can become more serious over time, increasing the cost of repair and maintenance and making catastrophic failure much more common. All current wind turbine blade monitoring occurs in a manual fashion on a periodic basis.
Current Market Solutions
With inefficient corrective maintenance in mind, ping has created a new product which addresses the key issues of blade damage and catastrophic failure through ongoing continuous monitoring rather than piecemeal, ad hoc monitoring measures.
The company’s product, ping.monitor, is capable of using sound (aero-acoustics) produced by airflow travelling over defects on the moving wind turbine blades to detect blade damage. The device consists of an acoustic detector installed at the base of the turbine and a sealed housing to prevent damage from strong winds, debris and other environmental contaminants.
First of a Kind
There is currently no other product which provides continuous aero-acoustic monitoring of wind turbines to establish external blade health. The device allows the user to monitor blade integrity continuously and is the world’s first.
ping.monitor uses analysis of the sound that is detected from the blades to identify whether the sound from the blades is abnormal. It then compares this sound with previously known acoustic signatures from damaged blades to help identify the likely scale and type of damage to the blades, including cracking, pitting, erosion and delamination, which over time will lead to loss of aerodynamic performance and potentially catastrophic failure. This continuous detection allows repairs to be responsive, swift and targeted, reducing costs to turbine owners/operators and end-power users. Turbine downtime from more serious damage is reduced, as a result of the early detection of the defects.
Reduction of Repair Cost
ping.monitor reduces repair costs and alert times to a fraction of what they are in the market currently. When damage occurs to a wind turbine, maintenance staff are alerted and repairs can occur swiftly.
It is expected that ping.monitor will reduce the frequency of routine visual inspections, but these services will not be totally replaced. Instead, ping.monitor will allow more targeted use of visual inspection techniques, which will still have a place in confirming urgency and the best course of action for repair. In cases where repair is not immediately warranted, ping.monitor will continuously monitor that defect, tracking progression over time.
Evidence of Technical Viability of the Project
ping.monitor has been trialled at several wind farms in South Australia, and a number of blade defects have been identified that were not known to site maintenance staff at the time.
Partners involved in the development include Myriota, who are developing low cost satellite communication technology which allows easy and efficient transfer of data from remote sites, and Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, who are assisting with the testing of known blade defects. The development and prototype stage has been performed over four years and has confirmed the functional veracity of this product. Project milestones include proof of concept in 2013, three prototypes in 2014 to 2018, market research in 2014 to 2018, and an improved data acquisition device in 2018.
The first version ping.monitor is now being rolled out with commercial partners and we are accepting orders.
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