Every day, more and more wind farms are popping up in communities across the U.S. With increased demand for wind energy comes the need to increase wind turbine efficiency. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) reports that at the end of 2017, “more than 28,000 megawatts (MW) of new projects across 31 states [were] either under construction or in advanced development.”¹ This shows incredible growth potential as American families and businesses continue to adopt renewable wind energy into the mix.
By building so many new wind farms, the wind industry is well on its way to producing 10% of electricity in the U.S. by 2020. Unfortunately, as soon as blades start turning, they come into contact with abrasives that slowly cause damage and wear that can be catastrophic to annual energy production (AEP).
The Challenge: Degraded Blades Slow Production
Minimal leading-edge erosion can cause 3-5% loss in AEP, and heavily damaged blades can result in upwards of 25% efficiency loss. As blades degrade, aerodynamic performance suffers from an increase in drag and a loss in lift, which is key to maximizing wind turbine efficiency and energy production.²
The damage starts small. Tiny pits can form on a blade’s leading edge. Initially, this damage will have little to no impact on AEP, but with time the damage will grow. Eventually, the small pits will become gouges, which eventually grow together to cause significant damage that requires extensive repair.
Shutting down a turbine to conduct repairs slows production and can take a considerable amount of time depending on the extent of the damage. To avoid this downtime, you’ve got to catch the problem before it impacts production or worse yet, a catastrophe.
The Solution: Regular Inspections and Proactive Maintenance
Understanding how blades wear over time, catching damage early and making proactive repairs will maximize production and extend the lifespan of wind turbines. That’s where BladeEdge℠ comes in.
We start with enabling expertly-piloted UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) inspection using our BladeEdge Capture Assurance Tool (BECAT℠) to make sure we capture imagery from every centimeter of a blade. Our software allows us to be sure owners and operators have the inspection data they need before leaving the field. For a closer look at BECAT, check out the images on page 4 of our case study. Download the case study now.
Next, we process the data using our artificial-intelligence-driven BladeEdge℠ Analytics software. BECAT packages the files for processing by BladeEdge’s deep-learning algorithms. Our software creates a single, high-resolution image of a blade and pinpoints areas of damage or wear.
This data is available to our clients through the BladeEdge Analytics portal and can be used to inform proactive maintenance and repair decisions. The more you know, the more effectively you can prevent damage from getting out of hand.
Taking Control: Enabling a Wind Energy Owner/Operator for In-House Inspections
Many owner/operators in the wind industry wish to take control of their data and lower costs by enabling their wind farm technicians to perform in-house inspections. Working with the BladeEdge team allowed one of the nation’s leading energy providers to streamline efficiencies, maintain production and eliminate downtime.
By blending professional drone inspection flight techniques, big data analytics and artificial-intelligence-driven results, the BladeEdge team helped this energy provider transform their blade management strategy and improve operations.
Download the case study to learn more.
¹U.S. Wind Industry Annual Marketing Report – Year End 2017. American Wind Energy Association.