Designed, finessed, and fine-tuned to the most minute detail, today’s offshore wind turbines are monumental feats of engineering. But the smallest crack or defect in a generator’s drivetrain can have catastrophic consequences – especially offshore, where repairs are even more difficult, risky, and costly than on land.
The answer to this is monitoring and planned maintenance: spotting indicators of faults, and stopping them before they happen, has become a key battleground in enhancing the efficiency and availability of offshore wind farms.
As with all large-scale rotating systems, monitoring the health of the drive shaft can be challenging. Traditional methods have relied on vibration sensors, which measure the frequencies and amplitudes of vibration. This relies on using data to make calculated guesses, though, meaning that failures still make it through the net.
Nottingham-based GyroMetric Systems, which spun out from the city’s Trent University, has overcome that problem with its innovative digital system for monitoring the health of rotating shafts. It developed an “incremental motion encoder”, which uses a unique algorithm to calculate shaft position and torsional twist, helping operators to measure drivetrain efficiency more accurately.
Using artificial intelligence techniques to analyse performance and diagnose maintenance needs, the system can also alert turbine operators to faults in the drivetrain – allowing for repairs before problems worsen.
Working in the maritime sector, Gyrometric saw an opportunity to apply its technology in offshore wind. The Catapult provided the renewables industry expertise to help Gyrometric transfer its technology from the maritime sector into renewables. Working with our world-leading team of drivetrain experts, we hooked up the system to our 15MW powertrain test facility during the crucial commissioning phase. The GyroMetric team collected data from a 7MW nacelle’s bearings, gearbox and couplings – the key mechanical failure points on an offshore wind turbine.
Testing showed that this technology has the capability to measure shaft behaviour more accurately, improving design optimisation and reducing material costs using the collected data – providing a competitive advantage for offshore wind Owner/Operators.
Since testing started, GyroMetric attracted a significant investment, providing a boost for both the company and the UK’s growing offshore wind supply chain
The move into monitoring wind turbines is an important strategic decision for Gyrometric Systems, and being able to work with ORE Catapult and using their turbine test facilities has provided us with a seriously useful stepping stone.