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Innovation Challenges

Wind Turbine Sensors


Background on Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE)

SGRE is a global leader in the wind power industry, with a strong presence in all facets of the business: offshore, onshore and services. The company’s advanced digital capabilities enable it to offer one of the broadest product portfolios in the sector as well as industry-leading service solutions, helping to make clean energy more affordable and reliable. With more than 95 GW installed worldwide, SGRE manufactures, installs and maintains wind turbines, both onshore and offshore. The company’s orders backlog stands at €25.1 billion. The company is headquartered in Spain and listed on the Spanish stock exchange (trading on the Ibex-35 index).

Challenge Background

Remote Monitoring of Wind Turbines is fundamental to driving increases in reliability and availability, improving turbine performance, reducing O&M costs and LCOE. In addition, those monitoring systems enable the collection of vast quantities of data from individual turbines, whole windfarms and entire fleets of turbines, that provide the basis for cutting edge diagnostics and predictive maintenance tools and techniques and place the Offshore Wind Industry at the forefront of the Digital Revolution.

Behind any remote monitoring system are the sensor technologies that collect and monitor the thousands of measured parameters on individual components, subsystems and entire turbines, feeding raw data into turbine control and alarm systems on the turbines themselves and to monitoring and diagnostics networks onshore. Sensors are the nerve-endings that continually feed all other systems to keep wind turbines and windfarms operating safely, efficiently and optimally.

SGRE already employ many cutting-edge sensor technologies which power our advanced SCADA systems, leading to world-class remote monitoring and diagnostic services for our customers around the globe. With a worldwide fleet in excess of 90GW, and a network of monitoring and diagnostic centres providing monitoring services to over 20,000 wind turbines in 50 countries, we are well aware of the benefits and improvements that new and innovative sensor technologies can bring, and continually strive to identify, assess, test, evaluate and ultimately adopt new innovative solutions into our sensor portfolio.

SGRE are delighted to be participating in The Launch Academy programme, and our challenge theme focusses on this important area of sensor technologies. We already scout widely across our technology networks and operating regions for innovative sensing solutions and see the Launch Academy programme as being very complementary to these other on-going activities. We are excited to see what new innovations are being developed in the UK and look forward to hearing from the brightest and best new SME’s, start-ups and Innovators in this technology sector.


Sensor Technology Challenges:

  1. Relative/Absolute Positioning sensor systems for blade, tower and nacelle orientation
  2. Acoustic sensor systems for structural health monitoring of blades and/or aerodynamic flow measurements.
  3. Erosion & fouling detection sensors for blades
  4. Blade lightning protection system health monitoring
  5. Wind speed measurement systems for Wind turbine control.

Further details of each sensor challenge are provided below, but some general guiding principles apply to all.

Environmental conditions

The application of these sensor technologies is for offshore (and potentially onshore) windfarms – operating in remote locations, in harsh environments, and typically exposed to the elements. Sensors must therefore be robust, able to operate in extremes of ambient temperatures, and resilient to humidity, water ingress, icing and the effects of seawater.

Sensor integration/ Installation & operational requirements

Applications are being considered for both the existing operating fleet as well as for future wind turbines still be manufactured. As such, consideration will be given to the means and ease of installation of new sensor systems. For the existing operating fleet, the speed and cost of installation as well as the extent of modifications to existing hardware needs to be considered. For new turbines, installation requirements within reasonable limits are less of an issue as it is foreseen that this would be incorporated into existing designs and assembly procedures. However, sensors requiring any significant changes to hardware for spatial or weight reasons are not desired.

Sensor connections and wiring requirements (either for power or data) will be considered. For sensors mounted on nacelles or towers, routing of physical connections for power and data are generally possible. However, blade-mounted sensors requiring physical connections back to the nacelle are extremely difficult to accommodate. For that reason, sensors with self-powering and/or wireless data technologies are of particular interest in these applications.

Blade-mounted sensors (or ‘targets’ for sensors, reflectors or other supporting equipment) must not disrupt blade operations and therefore must not create aerodynamic flow disruptions or add additional weight to any significant extent.

Sensor systems of any kind should be wholly incorporated on the overall turbine structure that they are monitoring. Sensors requiring separate foundations or floating platforms remote from the turbine are not desired.

Production and cost requirements

The primary goal of this challenge is to find sensor technologies for serial production application, meaning that sensors would be fitted to every turbine in an entire windfarm or fleet. In this case, high volume production and low unit costs are key requirements, along with design life and maintenance requirements. However, a secondary consideration may be given to highly innovative technologies with applications to prototyping, testing and special monitoring applications. In this second case, cost is not a primary driver though still important, and volumes would be much lower, whereas mobility (ease of installation, removal and transportation) would be an additional consideration.

It is anticipated that any applicant responding to this challenge has already given some thought to offshore wind applications and the suitability of their technology. Additionally, applicants should be able to demonstrate some basic testing or pilot projects in a ‘simulated’ offshore wind environment or other similar application environment.

We are excited to see what new innovations are being developed in the UK, and look forward to hearing from the brightest and best new SME’s, start-ups and Innovators in this technology sector.


Breakdown of Sensor Technology Challenges

  1. Relative/Absolute Positioning sensor systems for blade, tower and nacelle orientation.
  • Specific Use cases include: blade-to-tower positioning; blade deflection and azimuth measurements; blade speed measurements at low rotor speeds; absolute orientation of nacelle to ‘true north’ eliminating interference from local magnetic fields; tower deflections from the vertical; tower-to-nacelle deflections.
  • Monitoring frequency dependent on application but typically ~10Hz.
  • Linear accuracy <10mm; Angular accuracy <0.1 deg
  • Typical dimensions: Tower Hub height = 110m; Blade length = 80m; tower-to-blade-tip = 20m.
  1. Acoustic sensor systems for structural health monitoring of blades and/or aerodynamic flow measurements
    • Specific use cases include: structural health monitoring of blades based on changes to acoustic signatures; detection of sub-optimal flow conditions, stall detection, incorrect blade pitching, etc. based on changes to acoustic signatures.
    • It is anticipated that Signal processing, cleaning and filtering technology to eliminate background noise in challenging conditions will be a fundamental part of any innovation.
    • Application of AI and machine learning to refine acoustic signatures and for detection of deviations can be considered.
    • We will consider other techniques that provide similar insights to acoustic sensing.
  1. Erosion & fouling detection sensors for blades.
  • Erosion, fouling and/or icing of blades continues to be an issue for the Industry as a whole, and we continuously look for innovations to alleviate, mitigate and monitor these mechanisms.
  • Solutions are sought that monitor the surface condition of blades on a regular and continuous basis, without the need for physical intervention or trips offshore.
  • The types of potential solution technologies are not limited in this challenge, and may consider visual, acoustic or surface mounted sensors amongst others.
  • Any surface-mounted solution should must not disrupt blade operations and therefore must not create aerodynamic flow disruptions or add additional weight to any significant extent.
  • Solutions mounted remote from blades should be wholly incorporated on the overall turbine structure that they are monitoring. Sensors requiring separate foundations or floating platforms remote from the turbine are not desired.
  1. Lightning protection system health monitoring
  • Turbine blades are fitted with lightning protection systems consisting of a receptor or receptors mounted at the tip of the blade, or at intervals along the blade, connected to an internally routed conductor connected through the nacelle to ‘earth’.
  • Receptors can be damaged during a lightning strike and require periodic inspections to test their function. Inspections typically require trips offshore and physical interventions.
  • Solutions for remote monitoring of lightning protection system health are sought which will indicate when the receptors fail. Continuous monitoring of the system is not necessarily required, and mechanical ‘indicators’ as well as electrical monitoring systems will be considered.
  1. Wind speed measurement systems for Wind turbine control
  • Various technologies for wind speed measurement for wind turbine control are already available on the market and are typically mounted on the nacelle behind the blades. However, some technologies are susceptible to interference from flows passing through the rotor (particularly in the case of SODAR (Sonic Detection and Ranging) techniques) and other technologies (e.g. LIDAR) are still relatively expensive and hard to justify the cost-benefit.
  • New innovative solutions are sought in this area which provide accurate wind speed measurements at significantly lower cost to those currently available.

Entrants to this competition must be:

The Launch Academy is intended to identify and develop new innovative technologies. As such, we request that technologies that have previously been presented and discussed with SGRE in the UK or elsewhere are not put forward, unless the technology or application has significantly changed since the previous discussions.

SGRE are an Equipment Manufacturer and Service Provider. We are ultimately looking to incorporate new sensor technology hardware and software into the products and services we provide to our customers. Third Party Sensing, Monitoring and Diagnostic services are not sought in this challenge.


  • Launch of the Competition: 22-Oct-2019
  • Deadline for applications: 13-Dec-2019
  • Selection and notification of finalists: 6-Jan-2020
  • Launch Academy begins: Feb 2020


Applicants to the 5x SGRE wind turbine sensor challenges will be assessed by SGRE (market leading wind turbine OEM) and ORE Catapult (innovation specialist).

Applications will be assessed on:

  • Relevance to the challenge
  • Innovative nature of the solution
  • Coherence of the proposed business model
  • Feasibility/ economic viability
  • Development potential
  • Maturity of project/solution
  • Ability to launch project/Ease of implementation
  • Price/quality ratio
  • Suitability for the UK Market
  • Project plan and funding requests
  • Suitability for the launch academy programme


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.

ORE Catapult do not take any share of IP ownership or enter into commercial venture through the Launch Academy programme.

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