Offshore wind represents a major investment. New turbine models are regularly introduced to the market, with higher ratings achieved from larger rotor diameters supported by taller towers. Operators must generate as much power as possible from their turbines. This can be challenging to achieve because each model is subtly different and each location is subject to a unique combination of ground and metocean conditions, as well as collision risks. To optimise performance, offshore wind operators need to keep a close eye on their assets, to make sure they remain in good shape and deliver the expected levels of power.
We support operators at more than 50 % of the world’s offshore wind farms, so we have collected an abundance of Geo-data from our initial site characterisation surveys and ongoing monitoring activities. By combining that rich data source with inspection and monitoring data, we help operators make smart decisions and give them peace of mind.
Inspections are a case in point. Rather than randomly selecting turbines to meet their annual inspection quota, an operator can connect insights from Geo-data and inspection data to optimise their inspection regime. They may decide to increase the inspection frequency to every two years for turbines located in an area of high seabed movement; but reduce it to every four years in locations where seabed movement is minimal.
Structural health monitoring also offers optimisation opportunities. When sensors are applied to the structure, an operator can receive data in near real-time about the structural health and condition of the asset. If unusual vibration levels are detected, the asset can be prioritised in the inspection programme.
With government subsidies on the wane, many operators are seeking new ways to reduce their levelised cost of energy (LCOE). Those who are prepared to embark on a partnership based on lifetime asset monitoring stand to reap significant benefits, including:
• Reduced operating expense (OPEX) – with our integrated O&M solution we can help reduce OPEX of a 700 MW offshore wind farm by €2.5 million over the asset lifetime, simply by moving from four-yearly to five-yearly inspections;
• Increased production – preventative measures increase availability (tasks such as repairing a turbine or securing a free-floating cable inevitably involve a considerable period of downtime) and cost significantly less than corrective actions. A 1 % increase in availability could add more than €43 million of production to a 77-turbine wind farm;
• Extended design life – by monitoring turbines regularly, an operator can identify and correct issues like fatigue, corrosion and scour before they impact the asset’s integrity or performance. And if energy prices are low on a turbine with a high fatigue loading, the operator can simply turn it off, to reduce its fatigue consumption. These options are worth considering because just one extra year of full production could generate more than €165 million in extra revenue to a 77-turbine wind farm.
We are currently integrating our structural, inspection, metocean and Geo-data streams within a single portal. Using machine-learning algorithms, we will help our clients optimise their inspection and maintenance schedules and increase their data driven decision making.
We aim to build our autonomous capabilities close to offshore wind farm hubs, including inspections, surveys, structural and environmental monitoring, using our range of uncrewed surface vessels, remotely operated vehicles and drones. This approach will enable us to plan efficient general inspection routes and improve our flexibility – for example, we could quickly divert a vessel to check out suspected storm damage nearby. It will also reduce fuel consumption and safety risks.
Furthermore, we are also introducing a power curve verification service; exploring the use of metocean monitoring data to improve production forecasting; and investigating how to help developers use environmental monitoring insights to reinforce their biodiversity-positive credentials.
Fugro Blue Essence 12 m USV with the integrated Blue Volta advanced eROV for enhanced inspection
The operators who are able to look beyond daily operations and take steps to ensure the long-term structural health of their assets are the ones who will succeed in what will become a highly competitive arena.
With the maritime industry transitioning to remote and autonomous operations, the need for safe, efficient and sustainable remote inspection is ever-growing.