GE Renewable Energy has announced the availability of a new ground-based inspection system for wind turbine blades.
According to GE, the system combines thermal imaging technology and wide-band acoustic spectral analysis to detect anomalies on blades across an entire wind fleet, including both GE and non-GE turbines.
The patented system reduces the need for up-tower inspections and does not require wind assets to be powered down for a prolonged period, says GE. To date, more than 1,500 turbines have been inspected using this technology. On average, the inspection time per unit is under 15 minutes, according to GE.
Staged at the base of a wind turbine, the technology takes a series of recordings of the blades as they are turning under an active load. This produces a real-time view of the subsurface health of a blade, layered with advanced digital image analytic capabilities that read and detect a range of anomalies. Additionally, certain blade anomalies under rotation produce a distinct sound, which the system detects and analyzes to pinpoint the specific location of the anomaly, explains GE.
“Wind turbine blade inspections have come a long way. Ground scopes, drones and tap testing are just a few of the methods that operators have used to help prevent against failures both small and catastrophic,” states Anne McEntee, CEO of digital services. “But most down-tower blade inspections are limited to showing what’s happening with the surface of a blade. Many of the issues that lead to larger failures are deeper within the blade itself. This is where our inspection technology truly excels. The ability to also look beyond the exterior coating of the blade, regardless of manufacturer, marks a significant advance in blade inspection technology for the entire wind industry.”
According to GE, the system can detect issues such as fatigue cracks, fiber waves, delamination, bonding issues, breaking or missing adhesive joints, splits, and defective repairs. The service is currently available through GE Renewable Energy Services in the North American region and will be extended to other regions in the coming months.