Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (the world’s largest manufacture of offshore wind turbines) and Ørsted (the world’s largest developer of offshore wind farms) identified the need for fundamental research to overcome some of the long term challenges in the offshore wind sector. Through Aura, these companies teamed up with Hull, Sheffield and Durham Universities and, with funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), established ‘A New Partnership in Offshore Wind’. This £7.6M programme seeks to address a range of challenges in the design and operation of wind turbines and wind farms.
With the offshore wind industry continually seeking to reduce the cost of electricity, it is essential to reduce manufacturing and operations and maintenance (O&M) costs. Also, as turbines become much larger, so do the challenges associated with the transportation, manufacturing and repair processes. The manufacturing process demands a more streamlined and efficient process, enabling engineers to spot problems earlier on, minimising repairs and in turn reducing unnecessary waste and costs.
Researchers at the University of Hull are developing fibre optic sensors systems which can be embedded within wind turbine blades to monitor the manufacturing process and subsequently follow each blade through their installation and operation. This allows much greater understanding of how manufacturing process parameters affect the lifetime performance of a blade and this allows the cost of operations and maintenance to be minimised.
In addition, researchers are looking at design methods to allow even larger blades to be manufactured cost effectively. Using innovative design methods based on the structure of bone, they are working on the adaptation of the internal structure of the blade, to overcome the challenges faced by the current design.
The project has already made significant progress. Researchers have developed sensors capable of following a wind turbine blade through its life, using these sensors to identify key stress points within the manufacturing process.
By conducting this research, there will be an understanding of when a potential fault is starting to have an effect, allowing for planned maintenance rather than expensive and time consuming unplanned repairs.
Moving forward, the project looks to forge closer relationships across the globe, with world leading research to make offshore wind more efficient and economical, reducing waste and costs.
Find out more information on the Prosperity Partnership.