Eptune Engineering has developed a series of innovations to significantly improve the blade access and repair in harsh meteorological conditions


The wind turbine blades are one of the top 3 more costly components to maintain. (Credit: Pixabay)

The wind energy market continues to grow at a good pace with new breakthroughs being achieved regarding rotor size and energy production per turbine. Though the climate crise is pushing for green energy production expansion, the pressure to reduce LCOE is also present.

The wind turbine blades are one of the top 3 more costly components to maintain. The inspection and maintenance are commonly made by ropes or via suspended aluminium platforms that allow access to the wind blades. These activities are highly dependent on good weather conditions and are typically performed during summertime, resulting on a period that covers only 35% to 50% days per year. This weather limitation increases maintenance costs, due to standby time & seasonality. All the operational costs to run the blade repair activity; access platforms, IRATA trainings & certifications, vans, team insurances, overheads, etc. need to be diluted on a reduced number of sellable hours. Besides this maintenance cost impact, this reality of weather dependence to perform repairs also creates large economic losses in the energy production, since wind tower can be inoperative or with the energy production output reduced for days or weeks, when damages are identified.

Both OEMs and park owners have been under a lot of pressure to lower maintenance costs and production costs associated with unexpected stoppage. This is where Eptune Engineering comes in.

Eptune Engineering is a company, founded in 2018, and among other projects, intends to change the paradigm of blade maintenance operations, designing innovative solutions that can address this issue:

The innovations developed may be divided in three different axis:

– A habitat, we developed a closed working environment, around a suspended platform creating a barrier to the exterior, with controlled temperature and humidity levels;

– A sealing system, that isolates the segment of the blade to be repaired, preventing the contamination of this zone from external particles, being them rain, snow, or dust;

– A system that guarantees the stability of the platform during the elevation/descent of the platform, preventing unwanted horizontal and lateral movements

These innovations are the foundation to develop improved solutions for the blade repair market. The solutions developed will not only allow for maintenance procedures to be carried out in adverse climate conditions, surpassing the current state of the art, but will also permit a more comfortable and safer working environment. Another important aspect is that in general the repairs performed from ropes cannot guaranty the same level of quality as the ones performed from suspended platforms, these innovations will push even further the preference for using suspended platforms as the access norm for blade repairs.

All these innovations were developed in a 2 years project, known as Easy Platform, that is being developed in conjunction with OnRope and Instituto de Soldadura e Qualidade (ISQ). OnRope is a blade maintenance provider, acting like an end user, giving valuable input about general requirements and the most necessary improvements and faults that are experienced with the equipment existent in the market. ISQ is contributing with know-how in the development of testing, that are being used for the validation of the proposed solutions, a valuable partner in the R&D process of the actual project.

The development of Easy Platform is only possible due to the support of European Union and the national programs P2020 & COMPETE 2020, the program for competitiveness and internationalization, aiming to enshrine the economic, social and territorial development in Portugal. May this serve as a public acknowledgement to the importance of this program, that has been a significant help into making the development of this project possible.

Source: Company Press Release