By Matthew Stead, CEO, Ping Services

Up to 23 per cent of wind turbine failures can be caused by blade damage and it is estimated that each year operation and maintenance can claim up to 30 per cent of a wind farm’s operational budget.

At Resonate, over five years of working with wind farm operators has shown us that current wind turbine damage detection options can be inefficient, limited and is often done in an ad-hoc fashion, often every 12 months. This would often mean that a turbine could be operating in a substandard fashion for up to a year.

Obviously, any undetected damage can become more serious over time, increasing the cost of repair and maintenance, while increasing the risk of catastrophic failure.

Over the last five years we’ve been developing a new innovation which we believe will create a seismic shift in how wind farms operate and which could save big operators hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

The invention is called ping monitor and sits under our new company Ping Services. But let’s start with the problem that every wind farm operator has…

How blade defects are currently detected

Currently drones, hi-res photography on-site or manual inspection are used to detect damage and this is commonly done 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 mean high costs for repair and replacement activities as well as large revenue losses, particularly in the case of offshore wind farms. If the damage was detected earlier it could be repaired at a significantly reduced cost.

Preventive maintenance provides the potential for predicting the blade’s remaining life to support operational and maintenance 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.

Blade damage

What is Ping Monitor and how exactly does it work?

Ping Monitor can detect blade damage and catastrophic failure via continuous aero-acoustic monitoring. The device allows the user to monitor blade surface damage continuously and is a world first in this capacity.

The device analyses the sound that is detected from the blades to identify whether there are any abnormalities.

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 increased damage 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.

The device also uses Myriota satellite communications which allows for easy and efficient transfer of data from remote sites.

Reduction of repair costs

Ping Monitor allows reduced repair costs and shorter damage alert times. When damage occurs to a wind turbine, maintenance staff are alerted and repairs can be planned and efficient.

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.

Prototyping

Ping Monitor has released version 1 of the product following successful trials at several wind turbines in South Australia, Denmark and USA.

It is now being rolled out with commercial partners to run prototype field trials, analytics and fault detection algorithm testing in the US and Europe.

As we move towards commercialisation we’ll keep you updated on our progression.

For regular updates follow Ping Service’s LinkedIn Company Page.