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Offshore Wind Farm Maintenance To Benefit From EU Research

New techniques to continually monitor the structural conditions of an offshore wind turbine will go a long way toward optimizing maintenance and inspections, and help the offshore wind sector achieve greater increases in cost-efficiency.

5 megawatt turbines at Thornton Bank offshore wind farm Image Credit: ABBThe TOWERPOWER project is being funded by the European Union’s Community Research and Development Information Service, and is aiming at developing reliable new techniques to continuously monitor the structural condition of an offshore wind turbine. The project is entering its final year, and is using ultrasound-based techniques to monitor the transition piece of a wind turbine — the part of the turbine that supports the nacelle and the tower itself.

In addition, the project is working on pioneering real-time wireless connectivity so that the TOWERPOWER monitoring system can be done from onshore.

Together, the work being done by TOWERPOWER will help offshore wind farm operators optimize their maintenance and inspection of their wind turbines, an issue which has plagued operators for some time.

“What made this project interesting is that it is focused solely on monitoring rotating wind turbine structures offshore,” said project coordinator Dr Céline Auger from Capenergies. “While a lot of monitoring solutions already exist for the onshore market, these are often not applicable to offshore installations.”

A number of offshore tests have already been planned, which will help to monitor the impact of waves and the robustness of the processing unit, before the entire system is ready for testing on an offshore wind turbine.

“We are talking about 40 to 50 sensors per tower, with the data then aggregated and transmitted from the nacelle to a shore supervisor,” said Auger. “We have already carried out a number of experiments on models and simulations in order to fine tune the equipment. By the time the project is completed in 2017, we will have also taken into account environmental and weather conditions.”

“In addition, we will produce a best practice and standardization approach for test methods and implement a program of information and training for inspection personnel,” Auger added. “This will add great value to the wind sector as there are at present no standards for the inspection of these structural components.”

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