As a result of the fruitful collaboration between the BladeSave project partners, a unique solution for wind turbine blade monitoring, repair and management was born.
The project sought to develop a condition monitoring system for wind turbine blades. BladeSave is a fusion between a Fibre Optic Structural Health Monitoring System, which provides multi-sensing capabilities (strains, vibrations and acoustic emission), and blade management software (WindManager) to link data from inspection and maintenance to structural health monitoring data to provide a comprehensive solution for wind turbine blade monitoring, repair and management.
The project goals were to reduce the risks associated with blade failure while also contributing to the competitiveness of global wind energy production.
The objectives of BladeSave were designed to benefit both industrial and B2B initiatives through validation, optimization, and the promotion of the system, including to agents, distributors and wind farm operators.
Wind turbine blades are susceptible to fatigue failure and environmental effects, and cracks, if left unattended, can grow and propagate leading to costly blade failures. However, condition monitoring can mitigate this problem by continuously assessing the state of the blades, so that any problems are detected at an early stage and fixed immediately, at a low cost.
BladeSave has undergone extensive testing, including on EWT turbine blades in the Netherlands, where the system was monitored in action over three months. TWI also undertook destructive testing on a wind turbine blade that had been fitted with the BladeSave system in order to test its effectiveness. Acoustic emission-based health monitoring enabled by fibre optic technology was demonstrated on the blade during these final tests at TWI and the technology was also successfully validated on tensile tests with glass fibre reinforced polymer (GFRP) panels, the same material that the blade was made of. Matrix cracking, de-bonding and fibre breakage defects were detected by the fibre optic acoustic emission sensors that BladeSave was using. As a result, the technical developments have all been achieved at this point.
Since BladeSave is able to ‘listen’ to the vibrations produced by the turbine blades, it can detect flaws earlier than other systems, meaning that the necessary repairs are smaller, and any downtime is minimized.
The BladeSave system aims to increase the average annual availability of wind turbines from 95% to 98-99%, allowing component life spans to be maximized and reducing unscheduled repair, replacement and breakdown.
The BladeSave consortium, made up of TWI, Renewable Advice, Smart Fibres, EWT and ASSIST Software, will continue to promote the BladeSave solution among wind farm owners and operators, wind turbine manufacturers and service providers.