Applications > Renewable Energy
Wind energy production is rapidly increasing to help satisfy growing global energy demands. In a push to reduce wind energy production costs, turbines are becoming larger and are often deployed offshore where wind speeds are higher. In this environment, high reliability and low maintenance is critical. However, in this environment, the difference in wind speed at the top and bottom of the rotor span (wind shear) is greater. This leads to rotor imbalance which reduces the fatigue life of the main bearings and other drivetrain components. Individual pitch control (IPC) of the blades solves this issue by minimising fatigue loads, so extending life and reducing maintenance costs.
IPC algorithms require real-time loads data for each blade to be available at high speed. Measuring these loads with electronic sensors is impossible due to the frequency of lightning strikes to the blades. Blade load monitoring systems using optical fiber Bragg grating sensors have broad industry acceptance due to the technology's insensitivity to lighting strike.
Smart Fibres' optical blade loads monitoring system benefits from highly robust aerospace qualified instrumentation, a long and successful deployment history and a price point that meets industry needs.
The Smart Fibres system also outputs blade bending moments that can be used for condition monitoring. Rainflow counting of these data shows remaining blade fatigue life and allows blades to be serviced or exchanged at the most appropriate intervals.
With suitable processing, data from Smart Fibres' system can also be used to detect blade ice formation and melting. This knowledge helps operators maximise the availability of turbines in cold regions, whilst reducing the danger of ice shedding.
This emerging and key renewable energy industry involves the conversion of the energy from marine currents and tides into electricity. This industry shares with wind energy the need for the monitoring of machine condition to improve performance, maximise availability, and increase service life. It also shares the same suitability for exploiting the benefits of optical fibre sensing in blade, drivetrain and foundation structures.
In certain waters, legislation demands that tidal turbine operators monitor the loading on their blades to determine the severity and frequency of impacts with marine life. With a blade loads system already installed for condition monitoring, such marine impact monitoring is available at no additional instrumentation expense.
Smart Fibres has a growing track record in this industry and is helping several developers with their prototype and pilot machine monitoring projects.