World-First Wind Turbine Maintenance Bot Crawls Along Blades
Wind turbines are often found in difficult to reach places, and the large nature of the energy generators makes it difficult to survey. Fortunately, there is now a robotic solution to the maintenance of the turbines.
A six-legged repair robot called BladeBUG began showcasing its turbine crawling abilities in October. To fully illustrate the capabilities of the machine, it was tested off the coast of Fife on ORE Catapult’s 7MW Levenmouth Demonstration turbine.
The test showcased how the robot could crawl up and down the blades of the turbines, and made an interesting case for future investment.
While on the blade, the robot managed to travel 165 feet comfortably and, while it does this kind of movement, it can scan for areas of the blade that need repair. Traditionally, a visual inspection would only draw attention to prevalent issues, but by using its scanning technology the BladeBUG can find and report issues earlier.
CEO of BladeBUG, Chris Cieslak, explained why the test was so significant:
It has a clear potential for cutting costs, reducing human offshore deployment, and increasing blade lifetimes. But, we had yet to see how the robot would perform on a real turbine out at sea. I consider BladeBUG’s first walk at Levenmouth as offshore wind’s ‘moonwalk’ – a historic milestone in the industry’s evolution.
Robotics are here to stay, and they will be an essential ingredient to operating ever-expanding wind farms, deeper-water sites, and faster, bigger turbines in the coming years.
Since the BladeBUG can address these issues earlier, it could save energy companies a significant amount of money. On top of that, while the machine currently needs human oversight when operating, it is hoped that it will one day be able to do scans independently and send notifications when intervention is needed.
This technology will reduce the costs of renewable energy and it will be interesting to see whether these machines begin appearing on wind turbines across the country in the near future.
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