The innovation Exchange (iX), delivered in partnership with ORE Catapult and the Knowledge Transfer Network, is supporting GE to identify innovative solutions to innovation challenges. GE is looking for applicants to develop a full field condition monitoring device for the blade internal structure that can continuously monitor during turbine operation (thus picking up failures which are only visible during operation, such as kissing bonds) to direct an automated / robotic detailed inspection.

Challenge Details

Within the UK, GE Renewable Energy and Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult are working on a £9 ($11) million four-year research partnership aimed at minimising the time people have to spend offshore, which will enhance both safety and operating costs for offshore wind farms. The “Stay Ashore!” programme is built on three pillars:

  • Reliability by design, which is primarily focused on validation of key wind turbine components.
  • Enabling full remote operability and troubleshooting of the turbines through advanced digital functionality, to reduce the need to go offshore for unplanned events.
  • Use of robotics for planned maintenance events, specifically repetitive tasks, inspection activities as well as activities in areas that are difficult to access.

This partnership is aimed at further reducing the operating costs of offshore wind, which will benefit electricity consumers. It is part of GE’s broader offshore wind strategy for the UK – collaborating with local partners to drive down the cost of electricity and improve reliability of offshore wind projects.

Offshore Wind

Offshore Wind contains 2 main WTG platforms Haliade 6MW-150 and Haliade-X, the currently most powerful offshore wind turbine in the world featuring a 13 MW capacity, 220-meter rotor, a 107-meter blade designed by LM Wind Power, and digital capabilities.

Background to Full Field Condition Monitoring of the Blade Internal Structure

Wind turbine blade damage is generally classified using a 5-tier ranking, in which category 1 damage is cosmetic and does not affect turbine operation, whilst category 5 damage is critical and requires the turbine to be stopped immediately. Intermediate damage categories require attention within varying time spans. Damage can evolve from a lower category to a higher category, and often by the time it is visible on the surface of the blade it is serious or even critical. For this reason, internal inspections of the blade are a routine part of the O&M regime of an offshore wind turbine.

The surface area of the blade panels which must be inspected is in excess of 1000m2 for the Haliade-X, so a thorough inspection by personnel is very time consuming. Blade technicians can only gain access to around 70% of the span, where the remaining surface is in a very confined space. The inside of the blade may also contain toxic fumes from the glue used to manufacture the blade, which need to be considered for this operation. The turbine must be stopped for inspections, so it is not producing power while they take place.

Many of the damage types which occur on blades cannot be seen when the turbine is not in operation, for example ‘kissing bonds’ (in which the de-bonded surfaces only separate when the structure is loaded) or cracks which only show up on infra-red inspections when repeated stressing generates heat.

To avoid personnel having to enter the inside of the blade, keep the turbine running, and detect more types of damage it is desirable to have a ‘full field’ condition monitoring system which can monitor large areas of the blade internal structure and automatically interpret the results, directing more detailed (and time consuming) robotic inspections which must be performed with the turbine stopped.

Scope

Develop a full field condition monitoring device for the blade internal structure that can continuously monitor during turbine operation (thus picking up failures which are only visible during operation, such as kissing bonds) to direct an automated / robotic detailed inspection. The device must meet the Technical Requirements as outlined in section 2.1.3 and meet the Operational Conditions as described in section 2.1.4.

Haliade X nacelle
Figure 3: Haliade X nacelle size

Technical Requirements

  • Must be able to run continually, including while the turbine is in operation
  • Automatic interpretation of data
  • Integrated with relevant turbine SCADA signals so results can be categorised by wind speed
  • Must be possible to integrate with the turbine lightning protection system, if necessary
  • Must monitor all cavities of the blade
  • Does not need to monitor the whole blade at once (a system which travels along the blade would be acceptable)
  • If installed in the factory must be able to monitor 90% of the blade, or for retrofit, 70% of the blade

Operational Conditions

  • Waterproof and shock resistant (sometimes pieces of epoxy glue can come loose and fall down the blade)
  • Resistant to dust, grease, oil, glycol
  • Minimal maintenance and calibration efforts., i.e. maintenance and calibration shall not be below 12 months with a desired interval of 24 month
  • Able to work a minimum of 12 hours constantly in a high humidity outdoor environment with a temperature range of -10°C to +40°C, and in all wind speeds
  • Minimal training and educational effort shall be required to interpret the results.

Deployment Plan

  • Launch of the Competition: 2nd Nov 2020
  • Deadline for applications: W/C 11th Jan 2021
  • Selection and notification of finalists: W/C 18th Jan 2020
  • Virtual pitch event with finalists: W/C 25th Jan
  • Selection of winners & signed LOI: Q1 2021
  • Sign contracts, announcement of winners & project start: Q2 2021

Eligibility and assessment criteria

Entrants to this competition must be:

  • Established businesses, startups, SMEs or individual entrepreneurs
  • UK based or have the intention to set up a UK base

Applications will be assessed on:

  • Relevance to the topic
  • Innovative nature of the subject
  • Coherence of the proposed business model
  • Feasibility/ economic viability
  • Development potential
  • Maturity of project/solution
  • Ability to launch project quickly/Ease of implementation
  • Price/quality ratio
  • Suitability for the UK Market (Inc. building regulations and certification etc.).
  • Project plan and funding requests

2.4 Funding Scheme

The funding scheme between the Solution provider and GE Offshore Wind will be defined on an individual basis. GE could consider providing venture capital, funding demonstrations or R&D or provide site access, pending customer agreements etc. Any funding will be limited firstly to financial year 2021 and depending on project progress and success it potentially may be extended to 2022 and beyond.

2.5 IP and Potential Commercial Route

Existing background IP associated with a potential solution will remain with Solution Provider(s). Where any new IP generation is envisaged, it will be subject to the mutual IP agreement of the Solution Provider(s) and Innovation Challenger.

Any commercial deployment of transferred solution or newly developed solution, through licensing, joint venture, partnership or direct investment, will be subject to the commercial agreement between the Solution Provider(s) and Innovation Challenger.

Where necessary, a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) may be signed to uphold confidentiality in the engagement between the Solution Provider(s) and Innovation Challenger.