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. The generator pole shoe bolt connection on the GE Haliade-X offshore wind turbine series need to be inspected and is currently undertaken with men using rope access. Applicants are required to develop a semi or fully autonomous device that is capable to perform the inspection and bolt replacement of the pole shoe connection.

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.

Haliade 6MW-150

As of today, GE Offshore Wind has installed capacity on 3 continents (Europe, Asia & North America), accounting to 1GW of installations (incl. backlog).

Haliade-X 13MW-220

The validation unit of the Haliade-X is currently installed in Rotterdam, NL and has received its IEC Type certification. The first commercial units will be installed in the UK and USA working with SSE, Equinor and Orsted.

Generator Pole Shoe Inspection and Tightening Background

The generator pole shoe bolt connection has a requirement to be inspected within a set interval of 36 months after commissioning. This task is to be performed outside of the generator housing around the entire circumference.

This task is to be performed outside of the generator housing around the entire circumference. The current method involves a team of three rope access technicians who must rappel from defined anchoring points on top of the generator down to the lower part of the generator as shown in Figure 2.

The technicians’ first task is to remove a protective cap and silicon from the bolt. Once removed they use a 500Nm manual torque wrench to inspect and retighten the bolts, if required after inspection.

The process is very sensitive to weather conditions with potential impact to the execution timeline, costs of the works and associated safety risks with rope access.

The firm seal of the bolt shoes is crucial for the operation and lifetime of the generator and thus In line with the goals of GE’s Stay Ashore Programme. GE is seeking an inspection method that allows the use of robotics for this planned maintenance event, which will also look to eliminate human resource exposure to rope climbing. It will do this while applying highest safety and quality standards and guaranteeing full functionality of components.

GE bolt tensioning check - lower part of generator
Figure 2: GE bolt tensioning check – lower part of generator
GE is seeking a robotics solution that is a semi or fully autonomous device that is capable to meet all Technical Requirements outlined as per 2.1.3 and operational conditions as per 2.1.4 below.
Please note that GE will consider applications that answer the challenge but may not meet all of the requirements, for example a robotic solution that can traverse the Nacelle Generator area or a robotic arm solution that can perform the required inspection and maintenance. If there is an element of technology missing, the KTN and ORE Catapult would seek to support a potential collaboration between applicants if possible/applicable.
Haliade X nacelle bolt location and proportions
Figure 3: Haliade X nacelle bolt location and proportions
Technical Requirements
  • Installation time for the device and associated equipment shall be <30 minutes with a target average cycle time for each connection < 2min (max. 5min), excluding mobilization and demobilization.
  • Operating team shall be limited to 2 technicians for the setup and 1 technician for the operation of the device.
  • The robot will potentially affix to the Generator outer surface. The outer surface is made of structural steel and has an anti-corrosion protective coating. This coating shall not be damaged by scratches or peeling while the robot maneuvers.
  • Connection inspection sequence and number of bolts to be checked is determined by the design specifications and must be followed.
  • Bolt socket size is specified with 30mm and a reference torque value of 340 NM needs to be applied.
  • If 100% inspection is required then 720 bolt inspections are required.
  • After setup, the device is to operate semi or fully autonomously.
  • All bolts are sealed by silicon sealant and a cap which are required to be removed.
  • All waste and disposals are to be carefully collected and not to enter uncontrolled into the environment.
  • All openings must be kept clean and free of debris.
  • A new silicon seal and cap to be provided and fitted for each bolt in accordance with the specifications issued by design requirements after the tightening check.
  • For each bolt that needs to be inspected, the following shall be recorded and made available in an inspection report that can be uploaded to a PC or other electronic device for further processing:
    • Determine the exact position on the circumference of the generator
    • Record the starting and end torque value of the identified bolt
    • Record the degree of bolt movement.

Operational Conditions

  • The device and associated equipment must be capable of operating in harsh offshore conditions and meet the following criteria:
  • Waterproof and shock resistant
  • Resistant to dust, dirt, grease, oil, glycol
  • Minimal maintenance and calibration efforts, e.g. maintenance and calibration shall not be below 12 months with a desired interval of 24 month
  • Able to work a minimum 12 hours constantly in a high humidity outdoor environment with a temperature range of -10°C to +40°C, and best case up to 12m/s wind speed
  • Minimal training and educational effort shall be required to operate the device
  • If not battery operated, power can be supplied via temporary cables from the turbine’s 230/400V auxiliary power supply system
  • It is expected that the device can be transported by technicians, where Manual Handling requirements should be considered.

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

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.

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.