GE Renewable Energy and Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult have successfully tested a six-legged robot that the companies say could bring the wind industry over GBP 250 million in savings annually.
Funded by Innovative UK, the project also brought together UK small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) BladeBUG and EchoBolt.
The testing showed how a robot can inspect wind turbine bolts autonomously, eliminating the need for technicians to loosen and retighten thousands of bolts per wind turbine as part of routine maintenance.
The EchoBolt technology will also reduce time spent on maintenance, critical structural failures, and extend turbine lifetimes at sea, all of which will be important as the European market looks set to accelerate its expansion as Russian fossil fuel imports decrease, ORE Catapult said.
The robot successfully crawled the interior of ORE Catapult’s 7 MW Levenmouth demonstration offshore turbine in Fife, inspecting bolts to identify any loss of tension.
The EchoBolt technology has been validated through trials in bolt inspection at the same test turbine, and on GE’s Haliade-X, the world’s biggest offshore wind turbine nacelle.
According to ORE Catapult, the achievement could lead to the production of a predictive schedule for future operations.
“The challenge of regularly retightening thousands of wind turbine bolts, that can weigh up to 20kg each, is the leading cause of scheduled downtime in the wind industry, and presents a number of significant health and safety challenges to operators,” said Pete Andrews, EchoBolt founder.
“EchoBolt technology is actively supporting over 4GW of capacity in managing bolted joints through a condition-based approach, eliminating the requirement for time-based retightening.”
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