Safeguarding sustainability: NDT’s contribution to the renewable energy transition

The world is undergoing a significant shift towards renewable energy sources, driven by the urgent need to address climate change and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. 

In June 2019, the UK government set a net zero emissions target by 2050, with two additional interim targets set in 2021 to run a net zero power system and reduce emissions by 78% by 2035. Progress is being made towards this target and in the first quarter of 2023, renewable energy sources provided 47.8% of the total energy generated. This has increased from 5.8% in the same quarter in 2010. 

As the renewable energy sector grows, ensuring the longevity and safety of its infrastructure becomes crucial. 

Non-destructive testing services play a vital role in this transition, offering a range of techniques to inspect, monitor, and maintain renewable energy assets without causing damage. In this blog, we will explore the significance of non-destructive testing (NDT) in safeguarding sustainability and how it contributes to the success of the renewable energy revolution.

The Importance of Renewable Energy 

Renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, and hydroelectric power, are vital elements of a sustainable future. They offer clean, abundant energy that does not run out, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and removing the environmental impact associated with traditional energy generation.

However, ensuring the reliability and structural integrity of renewable energy infrastructure is crucial for its long-term viability. This is where non-destructive testing comes into play, as it allows for thorough inspections and preventive maintenance, ensuring the safe and efficient operation of renewable energy assets.

Understanding Non-Destructive Testing

Non-destructive testing encompasses a range of inspection methods that assess the integrity of materials and structures without causing damage to them. These techniques use various tools and technologies, including ultrasonic testing, radiography and visual inspection, among others. 

By using NDT, engineers and technicians can identify defects, cracks, corrosion, and other potential issues within renewable energy equipment and components, allowing for early intervention and appropriate maintenance strategies.

At NDT Renewables we are experienced in working with the renewable energy sector. We have experience with a range of NDT services that can be used within the renewable energy sector. 

Interested? Find out more.

Let’s think more about how NDT services can be used in the renewable energy sector. 

Ensuring quality in wind energy 

Wind energy is a rapidly expanding sector, and wind turbines play a pivotal role in harnessing this renewable resource in the UK. There are several new projects underway at the time of writing. 

Construction has begun on a large offshore wind farm in the North Sea. Dogger Bank Wind Farm, off the east coast of England, will produce enough renewable electricity to supply 5% of the UK’s demand and power around 5 million homes each year, once it is fully operational in 2026. 

In addition to this, another macro offshore wind complex is to be built, called the East Anglia Hub, which will encompass other wind farm developments in East Anglia with an installed capacity of 2,900 MW. Construction for this complex will be completed in 2026. 

There are more. 

As the number of wind farms increases, so will the need for NDT. 

Ultrasonic testing is one of the main NDT techniques used to detect hidden flaws in the composite materials that are used to create wind turbine blades. 

By detecting and addressing these issues promptly, NDT companies can help prevent catastrophic failures, reduce downtime, and extend the lifespan of wind turbines, ultimately improving the efficiency and profitability of wind farms.

Hydropower infrastructure maintenance  

NDT is also crucial to the hydropower infrastructure. Hydropower plants rely on a complex network of structures, including dams, turbines, and penstocks. Non-destructive testing methods are essential for assessing the health of these structures. 

In 2021, small hydropower facilities in the UK recorded 1.4 terawatt hours of electricity, while at the same time, large-scale hydropower plants generated roughly 4.1 terawatt hours worth of electricity. Although this is not as big a contribution to renewable energy as, say, wind power, it still helps the UK work towards its net zero emissions target. 

By conducting regular NDT inspections, you can proactively address potential issues, ensuring the safety and efficiency of hydropower installations and preventing costly failures. In this area, ultrasonic testing is used to identify corrosion, material degradation, or cracks in dam walls, while magnetic particle inspection can detect defects in turbine components. 

Biomass Energy 

NDT plays a crucial role in ensuring the integrity and safety of biomass energy systems. Biomass energy involves the conversion of organic materials, such as agricultural waste or dedicated energy crops, into usable energy sources. 

In the UK, biomass energy is the second largest source of renewable energy, generating around 12.9% of the total UK electricity supply in 2021. 

NDT techniques are employed to inspect and monitor biomass storage structures, such as silos or bunkers, to identify potential issues like structural weaknesses, corrosion, or leaks. By using methods like ultrasonic testing and visual inspection, NDT helps detect flaws or damages that may compromise the efficient storage and handling of biomass materials. 

This proactive approach enables operators to address problems early on, prevent costly failures, and maintain the overall reliability and productivity of biomass energy systems.

Growth of NDT in the Renewable Energy Sector  

As the world continues its transition towards renewable energy sources, the role of non-destructive testing becomes increasingly important. By enabling thorough inspections, early detection of flaws, and proactive maintenance, NDT helps safeguard the sustainability and longevity of renewable energy infrastructure. 

More than 25,000 inspections are carried out in factories and on-site in the UK every day, to detect defects and damage in a huge range of products and structures. The NDT market is predicted to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 7.35% over the next 5 years globally. As the renewable energy market grows, so too will the opportunities for growth in the NDT industry. 

Safeguarding sustainability

Ensuring the quality and safety of the infrastructure in the renewable energy sector is vital. 

Whether in wind farms, biomass storage structures or hydropower plants, non-destructive testing techniques allow for the identification and resolution of potential issues before they escalate, reducing downtime, improving performance, and maximising the return on investment. 

Embracing NDT in the renewable energy sector is not only a practical choice but also a crucial step toward a greener and more sustainable future. 

Responsive testing that delivers assurance that your equipment is safe.

Contact us for a quality testing service with a fast report turnaround. We can respond to any challenge.

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