Novel remote blade maintenance technique for offshore wind farms wins accolades in an important competition organised by GE Renewable Energy and renewable energy research groups.
A demonstration from Tethys Energy Services (Tethys) and Aerones won through in a blade robotics innovation competition launched by GE Renewable Energy, the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult and KTN.
The organisers were looking for a robotics solution to automatically maintain offshore wind turbine blades and reduce unplanned offshore activity during the operations and maintenance (O&M) phase.
Tethys and Aerones developed a new offshore transportation and delivery system for onshore wind robotics technology to work offshore.
GE has now committed to offering technical support and guidance on how to deploy the technology on offshore projects.
Aerones CEO Janis Putrams said: “Not only are blades are getting longer, conditions are getting harsher, distances to site are increasing and the supply of experienced blade technicians is getting squeezed.
"We provide a market-leading scalable robotics solution that offers a full suite of blade services to solve this problem and remain convinced this is the only way for the industry to go to continue to reduce the levelised cost of energy.”
The Tethys/Aerones robot can provide advanced remote inspection, maintenance and repair tasks on offshore wind turbine blades.
The companies claim it is scalable, much safer and up to five times faster than conventional rope access and can “drastically” reduce turbine downtime.
Tethys and Aerones will now demonstrate the prototype technology on ORE Catapult’s 7MW Levenmouth Demonstration Turbine (formerly Samsung's Fife demo).
Vincent Schellings, GE Renewable Energy chief technology officer for offshore wind, said: “Innovative robotics solutions such as this have the ability to significantly reduce operation and maintenance cost for offshore wind turbines like the Haliade-X, the most powerful turbine in operation today.”
Tethys provides services to wind farms across Europe, growing its UK-based employees to 40 by 2024 while Aerones is looking at manufacturing the robots in the UK.
KTN and ORE Catapult used the Offshore Wind Innovation Hub’s Innovation Exchange (OWiX) to search for expertise robotics industry for GE.
ORE Catapult’s research and innovation director Dr Stephen Wyatt said: “Bringing through new innovations from the robotics sector to help improve the operations and performance of offshore wind farms, and to continue to drive down costs, is vital if the UK is to meet ambitious installation targets of 40 GW by 2030, and achieve net-zero by 2050.
"Supporting companies like Tethys and Aerones to further develop and enhance their technology, and showcase their products to the industry’s leading operators and turbine manufacturers, brings a huge boost to the UK offshore wind supply chain, helping to create jobs and generate millions of pounds for the UK economy.”
Robotics could cut offshore wind inspection costs by almost 40% by integrating remote operations, robotics and automated systems into operations and maintenance activities, according to research from ORE Catapult.