The European Union (EU)-funded TOWERPOWER project is readying for final testing of its technologies that monitor the structural condition of offshore wind turbines.

The project, which is entering its final year, is currently integrating cutting edge inspection techniques.

It is aimed at developing new techniques for optimising maintenance and inspections of offshore wind turbines to achieve cost efficiencies.

With real-time wireless connectivity, the TOWERPOWER system can be used to monitor offshore conditions on land.

Project coordinator Dr Céline Auger from Capenergies said: “What made this project interesting is that it is focused solely on monitoring rotating wind turbine structures offshore.

“While a lot of monitoring solutions already exist for the onshore market, these are often not applicable to offshore installations.”

The project is initiated by taking into account the growing demand for tailored offshore solutions.

To address the growing demand, the project consortium – led by the French business cluster Capenergies – brought together five SMEs, three SME associations and three research centres to investigate and develop new solutions.

In developing maintenance planning for offshore wind turbines, the TOWERPOWER project also sought inspiration from new strategies identified by operators for risk-based inspection approaches seen during the last decade.

Auger said: “We decided to focus specifically on inspecting the transition piece of the wind turbine, the part that supports the nacelle (the section that houses all of the generating components in a wind turbine) and the tower itself.

“This transition piece is made of a set of steel pieces some 40 mm thick, which are joined together by a 50 mm thick special concrete layer.”

To evaluate defects, the project partners tested two ultrasound-based techniques: acoustic emission and guided waves.

They have also scheduled a number of tests in water to monitor the impact of waves and the robustness of the processing unit before the entire system is ready for testing on an offshore wind turbine.

Auger added: “We have already carried out a number of experiments on models and simulations in order to fine tune the equipment.

“By the time the project is completed in 2017, we will have also taken into account environmental and weather conditions.”