EOLO: Wind-generator remote inspection system

Company: Diagnóstiqa Consultoría Técnica S.L.

Website: www.diagnostiqa.com

Address: Proción 7, Oficina 2B, 28023 Madrid, Spain

Contact: María José Sáenz de Buruaga Molina (Tel: +34 91 708 16 50, mjose.saenzdeburuaga(at)diagnostiqa.com)

 

Company Profile:

DiagnóstiQA is an independent Spanish company created in 2007. Its multi-talented professionals have over 30 years of experience in their fields of application.

DiagnóstiQA offers its clients in the industrial sectors technical services of consultancy, supervision, inspection, tests and diagnosis.

One of the major strengths of DiagnóstiQA is being a fully independent third party, which is fundamental to secure the impartiality of its technical recommendations, judges and diagnostics.

It is the declared strategy of DiagnóstiQA to provide high benefit services and true value for money to customers worldwide, based on offering Know How and experience in industry, energy and petrochemical sectors.

From its offices in Madrid, A Coruña and Vigo, worldwide client's needs are attended. In the last years, the international activity of DiagnóstiQA has increased significantly, developing activities in Europe, Africa, America and Asia.

Revenue 2014: 4.400.000 € (estimation)
Total Asset 2014: 2.750.000 € (estimation)
Average annual manpower: 70 (estimation)

Products:

  • Project and Construction support
    • Project management
    • Procurement
    • Quality Assurance
    • Quality Control
    • Supervision during construction and start up
  • Operating support
    • Maintenance supervision
    • Predictive maintenance
    • Technical consultancy
    • Training and instruction
    • Energy efficiency
    • Inspection
    • NDT
    • Condition assessment
    • Life management and life extension programs
    • Integrity assessment
    • Forensic failure analysis
    • Fitness for service

 

Use Case:

Current status:

The construction of wind farms worldwide has occurred mostly in the last 20 - 25 years. Since then, it has been observed that the lifetime of the installed wind farm extends beyond the original estimated time by manufacturers. The effort today is focused on extending the useful life of installed assets, optimizing and expanding maintenance of wind turbines, conducting more inspections and with wider scope of its components.

Wind-generation technology has specific characteristics that distinguish its maintenance, such as high criticality of certain components (power-train, transformer, blades, etc.) whose failure involves the decommissioning of the wind turbine to repair.

Wind farms are usually isolated facilities, with limited access, which lengthens the time of repair and increases the economic impact of failures.

In this context, inspection technologies able to detect damage at an early stage, before they become critical, are particularly relevant.

In an industry that depends on an intermittent resource like wind, a clear need is detected to reduce wind turbine programmed outages and increase the speed and efficiency of inspections. It is necessary to propose improvements to methods for inspection of wind turbines in two aspects:

  1. Developing methods to perform the inspection with the blades in movement, eliminating the costs of outage (loss of production)
  2. Developing methods that, although need to be performed with the wind turbine out of service, reduce inspection time and increase the quality of the inspection

Wind turbine blades are definitely the most difficult component to inspect in the wind farm. The structure of the blades is affected by many mechanical and environmental factors: temperature changes, ultraviolet radiation from the sun, or mechanical damage caused by high winds are important variables that affect the condition of the blades.

The main objective of this challenge would be to develop autonomous inspection systems of structural elements (blades and tower) of a wind turbine in operation by a Remoted Piloted Aircraft System (RPA), either by using a portable station from the ground.

Three procedures are currently commonly used to check the condition of rotor blades, all of them slow and costly:

  1. Inspection of blades using cranes with baskets, or lifting platforms that situate the inspectors to the proper height. It is expensive, really slow, requires trained and experienced staff, has considerable risk, and is applicable only with moderate winds.
  2. Inspection of blades based on vertical works, by an inspector that starting at the rotor slides along the length of the vertical blade. This procedure needs many skilled workers and a long outage of the wind turbine.
  3. Inspection of the blades from the ground, using a telescope, a high-resolution digital camera + optical system, and a tripod. Additionally, a total station is used to locate and dimension the defects.

In all these inspections, the wind turbine must be out of service and stopped, leading to an unavailability for the property and causing significant loss of electricity production and income.

Other types of inspection require dismounting the blade, with high cost and the risk of damaging the blade during handling or transport. This is only done when there is evidence that the blade can have serious internal damage.

In the state of the art, there are more innovative inspection systems of wind turbine blades, which can be grouped into two main groups: direct inspection robots (both outside and inside the blade) and aerial vehicles (Remotely Piloted Aircraft System).

The use of these devices require a prolonged inspection unavailability of the wind farm, not only because of the inspection time of each turbine blade, but also for the installation of the whole system to rise and anchor, if necessary, the robot. Robot displacement from a wind turbine to another within the wind farm wastes also considerable time and resources.

Currently, there is no system to carry out an inspection of the rotor blades while they are in operation, which adds technical complexity for two reasons: to the control system, and to the inspection sectors.

This challenge demands very advanced technologies in computer vision, control systems, artificial intelligence, planning and user interfaces, as well as advanced processors.

Motivation:

The challenge has to be attacked by a remote inspection system; RPAS seems to be the most feasible approach. The system will need to develop:

  • Guidance, navigation and control systems for RPA's with avoiding obstacles capabilities and robust control system to wind turbulences
  • System of SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping) for wind turbine blades
  • Automatic / collaborative defect detection system, mounted on FPGA's based architectures for real-time processing
  • Advanced Control System with planning capabilities on 3D graphical models and support defect detection
  • Selection of suitable sensors (visual, infrared, 3D characterization, etc.) for inspection
  • Construction of spatial models, updatable in real time with the information extracted from the environment by the vehicle in flight. The fusion of existing information with information aquired by sensing systems is an active area of research, as modeling environment and architectures required to support the process
  • Mixed Task-Trajectories Planning in 3D. It will be necessary to develop and implement innovative algorithms. Within the optimization criteria the fundamental will be the energy used.

Expected impact:

  • Cost reduction in Energy Generation: Improve industry competitiveness by reducing energy costs
  • Alignment with European strategy: Improve efficiency of renewable sources
  • Traction effect in other sectors or applications: RPAS: new applications, as rescue, surveillance, maintenante of facilities, population census, etc.

The challenge will result in socioeconomic impact by ensuring security of energy supply by wind turbines, reducing the levels of non-availability. This will be achieved by detecting early damage before it exceeds critical level during operation of the wind turbine and allowing to plan maintenance tasks in an efficient manner (when there is no wind resource available).

Additionally, the development of leading inspection technologies, which can be implemented not only in the inspection of wind turbines, will enhance maintenance industrial technologies, with impact in creating direct and indirect employment in software development.

 

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