The Key to Long-Term Wind Turbine Maintenance Is a Defined Blade Management Program

From the first moment a wind turbine starts rotating, blades begin to wear. The process is usually slow, but days, months and years of contact with mild abrasives like sand, ice, salt, rain, snow and other elements will eventually take their toll.

A recent study conducted by the University of Illinois Department of Aerospace Engineering showed that even small amounts of leading edge erosion can result in approximately 3-5% loss in annual energy production (AEP). Results showed that leading edge erosion causes drag, which is detrimental to performance. For additional details, read the research article, Effects of Leading Edge Erosion on Wind Turbine Performance.

Degraded wind turbine blades cause inefficiencies, leading to upwards of 25% loss in annual energy production in heavily eroded leading edges.

You can’t very well remove the abrasive elements from the environment, so how can you slow or stop the degradation of your blades? First, you need to know what you’re working with. The best way to see and understand how your blades are wearing is by conducting effective inspections.

More and more owners and operators rely on drone/UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) inspections for wind turbine maintenance planning. Aerial inspections are safer, faster and more effective than inspections by human teams or ground scopes – and they deliver better data.

A single inspection provides enough data to build a clear picture of how your blades are performing, but that’s not enough. Regularly scheduled inspections will allow you to discover trends in how damage or wear impacts the performance outputs of your turbines and can help you plan proactive maintenance that improves your bottom line.

The key to maximizing your inspection data and prolonging the lifespan of your blades lies in a long-term wind turbine maintenance strategy based on a Blade Management Program.

Top 5 Benefits of a BladeEdge℠ Blade Management Program

  1. Consistent Inspections
    The main goal of a UAV inspection is gathering clear, accurate data that captures effective images and accurate metadata. It’s important to capture a complete dataset the first time and being able to review the data before leaving the field is critical. Through the BladeEdge℠ training program, we have instructed and certified many end-users and third-party partners to capture complete sets of data in the field.We have developed and deployed the BladeEdge℠ Capture Assurance Tool (BECAT℠) to ensure UAV operators have collected accurate data. The software is easily accessible in the field and helps operators extract more value from UAV inspections, transforming big data into actionable intelligence.

  2. Actionable Intelligence: Data You Can Use
    Before BladeEdge℠, the post-inspection was the expensive and time-consuming part: management and analysis of the data. Making sense of this large data set is a job for the artificial intelligence (AI) found within our BladeEdge Analytics software. BladeEdge℠ is designed to review and understand large amounts of data with ease – automatically. Instead of sorting through thousands of images, BladeEdge℠ creates a single, high-res mosaic of each wind turbine blade, automatically pinpointing areas of damage, wear or concern with deep-learning algorithms. With regular inspections, this data is tracked over time, so you’ll know exactly where and when your blades require proactive maintenance and repair.

  3. BladeEdge℠ Analytics Portal Access
    All of your data is stored within BladeEdge℠ and can be accessed easily through our BladeEdge℠ Analytics portal. That means the data you need is always at your fingertips in a central system of record. The easy-to-use portal can be accessed whether you’re in the field, in the office or anywhere else in the world. As long as you have internet connectivity, your data is always available to you.

  4. Unmatched Storage Capacity
    As you can imagine, data from regular inspections adds up fast. If you had to store this data on site, you might run into problems. We’ve got it covered. Our Blade Management Programs also include data storage capacity. Our infrastructure is fully equipped to handle the large amounts of data generated, which means our customers always have instant access to the data they need.

  5. Scalable Subscription
    Whether your wind farm has 10 turbines or 1,000+, a BladeEdge℠ Blade Management Program is the best way to structure your wind turbine inspection and maintenance. Using data to keep track of damage and wear is essential to proactive maintenance and maximized profits.The wind industry is growing and changing rapidly, paving the way for wind farm owners and operators to expand their businesses with additional infrastructure. Our Blade Management Programs are designed to grow right alongside you. If you need to add inspection capacity, increase storage or add more users to your BladeEdge℠ Analytics portal, we’re always happy to accommodate.

Plan for Success With a Data-Driven Wind Turbine Maintenance Strategy

Using data to drive your maintenance operations saves time and money while prolonging the lifespan of your blades. You don’t have to be a tech-whiz to make smart, informed decisions about your infrastructure with data from BladeEdge

Our Blade Management Programs are the key to a successful wind turbine maintenance strategy that can improve your AEP and your bottom line.