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New technologies of optical sensors and aero-elastic modelling for health evaluation and life extension in wind farms

The project objective is to develop both new optical sensors and aero-elastic model in order to evaluate the structural health of wind turbines and to determine its remaining life. It will allow extending wind farms life based on real data and, as a result, it will make wind energy more profitable.

Renewable energies, and particularly wind energy, are becoming more and more important to achieve a balanced energy matrix and to accomplish the international emissions limitations and requirements for energy independence. In the European Union the target for renewable energy is 20% of energy production. The improvement of wind turbines (WT) in terms of capacity and performance is pushing the growth of wind energy at global level. Nevertheless, high investments are required for wind plants, which could become more feasible and profitable if their life expectancy could be extended. In a context where more than half of the Spanish fleet of wind turbines will have more than fifteen years in 2020 and considering initially 20 years design life, their life extension is a critical issue in a low energy price scenario and lack of incentives. This issue is partially solved, considering that cutting edge WT designers offer technological services for residual life estimation of their units based on operating records from SCADA in combination with their knowledge from design. However, the problem persists for many other units either outdated or not supported due to, for example, the disappearance of their manufacturer. In addition, the promoter aims to estimate the structural health of their wind farms, without dependency of the WT designers, in order to face more advance operating and maintenance strategies that could reduce significantly the Levelised Cost of Energy (LCOE) This project aims to support promoters on the extension of life expectancy of existing wind farms with an assessment methodology based on a combination of theoretical analyses from aero-elastic models developed by a complete reverse engineering process and empirical data retrieved from innovative Distributed Temperature Sensing (DTS), Fiber Bragg Grating (FBG) system and Fiber Optic Vibration Sensors (FOVS). The applicability of these sensor technologies in this framework of health evaluation has still not been demonstrated and it requires the development of specific applied solutions that may be used for the great potential of wind turbines that are expected to continue working beyond their originally estimated life. The reverse engineering process necessary for the definition of the aero-elastic models of the WTs will be based on research work oriented to the characterization of; 1) the wind characteristics at every WT, 2) the definition of a representative controller similar to that one integrated in the unit and 3) the mechanical characterization of the main components, all of them inputs necessary for the execution of the aero-elastic analysis. Given the broad variety of wind turbine types involved, it is fundamental to develop a sound methodology that may help to inference functional aero-elastic models from measured data to determine the structural health, with independence of the original designer. Therefore, the subsequent phases of instrumentation, modelling and data interpretation will be carried out in an iterative manner until the most adequate configurations for the required objective are achieved. Gas Natural Fenosa Renovables (GNFR) will carry out pilot tests in its own operational wind mills of two different farms in order to validate and guarantee the applicability of the developed solution. The use of DTS, FOVS and FBG sensors, positioned at strategic locations of the wind turbine, together with a robust methodology for data management, processing and interpretation will lead to safely extend life and optimize operation. This will noticeably reduce the LCOE that in layman terms can be regarded as the cost of the useful life of the project divided by the total generated energy. As a result of WINDEX Project GNFR will be able to extend the operating life of its wind farms and consequently relatively reduce the costs per Kwh. Therefore, this project should help GNFR to increase its competitively in a global tight margin market such as is that of wind energy.
Acronym: 
WINDEX
Project ID: 
11 163
Start date: 
02-01-2017
Project Duration: 
36months
Project costs: 
3 810 000.00€
Technological Area: 
Optical Technology related to measurements
Market Area: 

Raising the productivity and competitiveness of European businesses through technology. Boosting national economies on the international market, and strengthening the basis for sustainable prosperity and employment.