The offshore wind farms of the future must not only be larger and consist of even taller and more powerful wind turbines; They must also be cheaper and more efficient in operation.
The calculation is simple: If we are to achieve our goal of a 70 percent reduction by 2030 and a fossil-free society by 2050, efficiency and industrialization must be speeded up and turned up tremendously.
“From 1990 until today, we have reduced 20 percent of the CO2,” says Lars Holm Nielsen, Head of R&D Service Operations at Siemens Gamesa:
“Over the next 30 years, we need to reduce another 60 percent. This means that we have to be three times as aggressive to achieve our goals, and that is a fundamental change. Therefore, servicing wind turbines must be industrialized,” he says.
Automated drones are a good bet for part of the industrialization, and a partner group consisting of Siemens Gamesa, ESVAGT, Upteko and the University of Southern Denmark under the auspices of Energy Cluster Denmark are working to solve this.
The innovation project Flexible Offshore Drone for Wind (FOD4Wind) will significantly reduce downtime, CO2 emissions and service costs by placing drones on the wind farm’s wind turbine service ship – a so-called SOV – and programming the drones to deliver spare parts and tools directly from the ship to the technicians in the turbine.
Today, spare parts are transferred with SOV, which even with careful planning takes a long time and will only take longer as the parks get bigger.
“If we can replace sailing with drone flights from larger ships, you save many of the trips around the wind farm. There is great potential in this – both in time and in CO2 emissions,” says Benjamin Meinertz, partner in Upteko.
Upteko programs the fully automated drones that will take off from ESVAGT’s ships and transport gear and tools to the offshore wind turbine’s nacelle. In addition, drones will be able to perform other tasks from the ship – something in which ESVAGT sees great potential.
“We must constantly develop our value proposition for our customers, and drones are an example of this. Parcel deliveries have great potential, but in addition, the innovation project can also help move inspection of turbines from being a manual process to being automated. This will result in a faster and much more accurate measurement,” says Nils Overgaard, Head of Special Projects at ESVAGT.
The University of Southern Denmark also sees the industrialisation of wind as an area in rapid development. Kjeld Jensen, associate professor, at SDU UAS Center is receiving many inquiries about wind turbines at the moment.
“We are on the way to the biggest green transition ever, and wind turbines are central to it. There is a huge potential in industrializing, also with increased use of drones,” he points out.
If you succeed with fully autonomous wind turbine inspection and package deliveries of e.g., tools using drones and fixed charging stations on SOVs, the effect will also be significant:
“The innovation project introduces an unseen level of autonomy and speed that will optimize O&M costs by servicing offshore wind turbines,” says Anne Bjerre Hammer, Project Manager, Energy Cluster Denmark.
The drones can be used for several different purposes and will reduce both costs and CO2 emissions. Based on 70 installed charging stations with drones, the annual impact in 2030 will be reduced downtime of 12,250 hours, 13,000 tons CO2 reduction, increased energy production by 39,200 MWh, reduced service costs by DKK 424 million and increased employment of 180 employees.
The project is supported by the Energy Technology Development and Demonstration Program (EUDP) and has a total budget of DKK 17 million. It has previously been supported by the EU’s Regional Fund. It runs until the end of 2024 and has a partner group consisting of Upteko, Siemens Gamesa, ESVAGT and the University of Southern Denmark. Energy Cluster Denmark facilitates and manages the project.