Wind turbine inspection: what you need to know

Wind turbines are a rapidly growing source of renewable energy, harnessing the power of the wind to generate electricity. As these towering structures become increasingly important to the future of the UK’s energy production, wind turbine inspection has become a sought-after service.

In this article, we will delve into some of the key aspects of wind turbine inspections, exploring their importance, the methods employed, and how these examinations contribute to a sustainable future for the UK.

Wind power: where are we now?

Wind turbine farms play a crucial role in the UK in harnessing wind power and converting it into electricity. This is particularly true since the UK government set a target to meet net zero emissions by 2050. There are two additional interim targets set in 2021 to run a net zero power system and reduce emissions by 78% by 2035. 

Huge 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 in the UK. This is nearly half of all the UK’s required energy!

Wind farms have made a huge contribution to the proportion of energy generated by Renewables in the UK. In 2022 alone, Britain’s wind farms contributed 26.8% of our electricity, which was an increase from 21.8% in 2021 as new wind projects became operational. 

The majority of the projects under development can be found in the North Sea. One example is Hornsea 2, which is off the Yorkshire coast, and became fully operational in August 2022. It can generate enough electricity to power around 1.4 million homes. 

Another example is East Anglia One which features 102 wind turbines, each producing 7 MW, and is part of a growing complex of wind farms off the East Anglian coast. 

However, to ensure their optimal performance and longevity, regular inspections of wind turbines are vital. 

Why is wind turbine inspection important?

1. Energy security

With wind power now a vital part of the UK energy industry, ensuring the safety and smooth operation of wind farms is vital to our country’s energy independence. Since the invasion of Ukraine, energy security has been high on the UK government’s agenda, and ensuring we can generate the power we need without relying on oil or foreign imports is vital if we are to reduce the impact of events that threaten energy market stability around the world. 

2. Ensuring safety 

Wind turbines are large and complex structures, often situated in remote and challenging environments. It goes without saying that regular inspections help identify potential safety hazards, such as flaws, cracks and corrosion. By addressing these issues promptly, the risk of accidents and injuries to technicians and nearby communities can be minimised.

3. Cost savings

Regular wind turbine inspections can help identify potential issues early on, allowing for timely repairs and replacements. This proactive approach reduces maintenance costs by preventing minor problems from escalating into major breakdowns. 

Moreover, optimised performance leads to increased energy production, maximising the return on investment for wind farm operators.

4. Maximising performance 

Over time, wind turbines may experience wear and tear, leading to reduced efficiency and energy output. By conducting thorough inspections, technicians can identify performance issues and make necessary adjustments or repairs. This ensures the turbine operates at its maximum capacity, generating optimal clean energy and minimising downtime.

Interested in finding out more? At NDT Renewables, we have experience working in the renewable energy sector and using NDT methods to carry out wind turbine inspections

Key elements of wind turbine inspection

Wind turbine inspection, including wind turbine blade inspection, is a critical process to ensure the integrity and performance of the blades. Wind turbine blade inspection methods include visual inspections, drone surveys and other NDT tests. 

1. Visual inspections

Visual inspections are the most common form of wind turbine inspection. Technicians visually inspect various components, including blades, towers, nacelle, electrical connections, and foundations. 

They look for signs of wear, damage, corrosion, or any abnormalities that may impact performance or safety. Drones equipped with high-resolution cameras are often employed to capture detailed images and videos, enabling a closer examination of the turbine’s components.

2. Structural integrity assessment

Structural integrity assessment involves more in-depth evaluations of the wind turbine’s components. 

Technicians may use advanced techniques like ultrasonic testing, thermography, or acoustic emission testing to detect defects that may not be visible to the naked eye. This helps identify internal structural issues, such as cracks, or corrosion, which could lead to catastrophic failures if left unaddressed.

Phased Array is an advanced method of ultrasonic testing that is used to reveal defects hidden inside a structure or weld. It is used to look for fatigue cracks in bolt holes on a wind turbine. 

3. Electrical system inspection

Wind turbines rely on a complex electrical system to convert wind energy into usable electricity. Regular inspections of the electrical components, including cables, connectors, transformers, and switchgear, are necessary to ensure proper functioning and prevent electrical faults. 

Technicians check for loose connections, overheating, or any signs of electrical wear that could compromise the turbine’s performance or cause electrical fires.

Safety assurance and performance optimisation 

As large-scale wind farms become increasingly common, regular wind turbine inspection is essential to ensure safety, optimise performance, and maximise the lifespan of your renewable energy assets. 

Through visual inspections, structural integrity assessments, and electrical system checks, technicians can identify potential issues and take appropriate measures to maintain the turbines’ efficiency and reliability. 

Wind turbine inspections not only provide cost savings and operational benefits but also contribute to a more sustainable and environmentally conscious energy landscape. By investing in proper maintenance and inspections, we can harness the full potential of wind power and drive the transition towards a greener 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.

LET'S TALK

Keep up to date with site and asset safety

Sign up to our newsletter to get updates on keeping your site and assets safe.
(We won’t pass your email on to anyone else)