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For over 11 years, Renewable Advice Ltd has supported businesses who manufacture, own and operate wind turbines. This working relationship began by providing consultancy to reduce wind turbine blade companies’ production cycle time and capital costs – essentially, optimizing budgets through a clear business strategy and controlled methods of production. Over time, this support has become more and more focused on operational inspection and repair of wind turbine blades. The aim: get them up and running as quickly as possible.
Benn Faulkner, managing director, started his working life as a project engineer for a wind turbine blade manufacturer, therefore has a wealth of experience in the field. He understand better than anyone the efforts involved in detecting an issue and fixing it accordingly:
“This may sound incredibly obvious, but the only way to avoid severe disruption to wind turbines is through close, regular inspection. We currently use drones to source photographic evidence of any detectable faults, followed-up, where required by a physical hands-on inspection. It is therefore our job to correctly identify every defect, for instance a crack in the structure, and propose a budget and timeplan to deal with the problem”.
For Renewable Advice, as well as the industry as a whole, there are currently two main issues which prevent efficient maintenance of wind turbines: a significant skills gap of personnel able to carry out the work and callouts being reactive to a fault, rather than proactive.
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To combat these challenges, Renewable Advice has developed an industry-leading condition-monitoring system called ‘BladeSave’ which is currently live on a project in the Netherlands. The prototype uses Acoustic Emission Fibre Optic technology to allow the team at Renewable Advice to “listen” to the blades and intelligently hear what is happening in realtime.
“Through a purpose-built dashboard in our Windmanager software, we, as well as our customers, can log in at any time and see all aspects of the wind turbine blade’s performance and ongoing risk to blade health. Therefore, we are able to notice any dips in performance and potential risks, allowing us to make adjustments or arrange a site visit before anything becomes critical”.
As a direct result of this continuous, automated monitoring system, the amount of downtime a wind turbine could suffer from, and its eventual repair costs, are significantly reduced. The final piece of the jigsaw is having enough qualified workers in place to fix or maintain wind blades as and when problems arise. Renewable Advice’s subsidiary, “Safer at Work Ltd” have a purpose-built facility at their HQ in Winchester, Hampshire which is designed to accommodate an extensive 3-week training programme. This includes: a 2-week blade repair course and full training certified to Global Wind Organisation training standards.
“Safer at Work’s training programme means that anyone can work in the windenergy field (with appropriate support) following completion of our training programme. We take people that have the right attitude, but not quite the right skillset, and prepare them to carry out significant maintenance work throughout Europe. A testament to the success of this is that we now offer minimum two year warranties on every job carried out by our technicians”.
Through use of the latest technology and a growing, empowered workforce, we are set to see an incredibly positive impact on the renewable energy sector.