A new project being headed up by the University of Manchester is investigating the role that advanced technologies, including robotics and artificial intelligence, could have on reducing the costs behind the operation and maintenance of offshore wind farms.
The role of operation and maintenance in the overall costs of an offshore wind farm has long been known to account for a sizable overall percentage. The global wind operations and maintenance (O&M) market is predicted to grow to $17 billion by 2020, according to figures published last year by GlobalData. Further, a report from the UK’s Crown Estate showed that 80% to 90% of the cost of offshore operation and maintenance is generated solely by getting to the site in the first place — in other words, getting an engineer out to the wind turbine.
However, according to the University of Manchester, the remote inspection and asset management of offshore wind farms and their connection to the shore is expected to be an industry worth up to £2 billion ($2.4 billion) annually by 2025 in the UK alone.
This is not a new idea. All the way back in 2013 I reported on Helical Robotics, a robotics solutions company which at the time put forward the idea of small robots able to traverse a wind turbine and inspect the blades and other mechanics of the turbine.
And just last year the TOWERPOWER project revealed it was working on ways to create real-time wireless connectivity of a wind turbine to provide continual remote monitoring.
The new project being led by the University of Manchester is a £5 million-funded project set to investigate the use of advanced sensing, robotics, virtual reality models, and artificial intelligence in reducing the cost and effort of maintenance and operations.
To be fair, any progress in this field will inherently mean fewer human-filled jobs — which is definitely worth discussing. However, considering the potential danger of offshore wind maintenance and operations, the role of remote maintenance could be invaluable — and theoretically life-saving.