Wind farm owners and turbine manufacturers join forces on drone deliveries of spare parts

8. September 2021

Four of the giants of the wind industry will supply offshore wind farms with spare parts using innovative drones. Vestas, Siemens Gamesa, Ørsted and Vattenfall see great potential in fast and flexible drone delivery with the innovation project ADD2wind under the auspices of Energy Cluster Denmark.

Four of the wind industry’s largest players are collaborating to develop drones as a central part of the future supply chain for offshore wind.

The producers Vestas and Siemens Gamesa, together with the park owners Ørsted and Vattenfall, are involved in the innovation project ADD2Wind, where the partner circle together with e.g. Aalborg University, Energy Cluster Denmark and several innovative subcontractors will develop a drone that can transport spare parts and packages of up to 40 kg from a warehouse ashore to an offshore wind farm up to 80 kilometers from the coast.

The innovation project is a further development of the OPAL innovation project, which through development, testing and demonstration has shown the potential so clearly that it has been possible to raise additional development capital for the next phase of the innovation project.

Flemming Frost, Engineering Specialist at Vestas, sees the drone solution as a ‘beautiful new world’ and something that could potentially have great significance:

“We can achieve greater flexibility in connection with service, which will limit time consumption and thus reduce costs,” he says.

Ørsted: Drone technology is a game changer

The innovation project ADD2wind under the auspices of Energy Cluster Denmark is supported by the Energy Technology Development and Demonstration Program (EUDP) with just over DKK 9 million. of the 14.5 million kroner, which makes up the total project sum, and Thomas Vesth, Senior Aviation Specialist in Ørsted, sees a potential result as a central part of the logistics set-up of the future.

“Drone technology is a game changer,” he says:

“We have successfully used drones to prevent technicians from rappelling on the wing during inspection, which is resource-intensive and risky, just as we use drones to inspect for bird life prior to the construction of parks. Freight is another area where drones can be used to advantage, ”says Thomas Vesth.

Today, the logistics associated with transporting packages and spare parts for servicing wind turbines are a cumbersome affair.

For Håkan Borgström, O&M Roadmap Deputy Director at Vattenfall, the drones are another step towards the constant improvement of safety and efficiency in the operation of the parks:

“If we can deliver spare parts and tools from land directly to the nacelle offshore, then we reduce the need for the use of cranes and generally shorten the transfer time to the wind turbines for our technicians”, says Håkan Borgstrøm.

Neutral platform of great value

It was originally Chief Engineer R&D Lars Holm Nielsen from Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, who presented drone transport as a challenge that one would have liked to have solved – and preferably across the industry:

“In 2018, we carried out a project where we looked at operating costs (OPEX) and investment costs (CAPEX) as well as competencies for the drone operation. Our conclusion was that the industry would benefit most from drone technology if it were a solution for a unified industry; from manufacturers to customers. It will provide the volume that can fund both CAPEX and OPEX for those who will be operating these solutions in the future. We want accessibility across the board, because that is what helps to make it profitable, ”he says.

Therefore, the circle of partners has chosen Energy Cluster Denmark as the neutral platform that drives the project.

“We want to push both industry and development in the right direction together, but we are also competitors in an aggressive market”, says Thomas Vesth:

“If a project like this was anchored by major players such as Ørsted, Siemen Gamesa, Vestas or Vattenfall, it would present other challenges in feeding into the project. We avoid this when it is an independent organization that gathers the threads, ”he says.

The collaboration on ADD2wind is a textbook example of Energy Cluster Denmark’s most important task, emphasizes CEO Glenda Napier:

“The large companies have guidelines and commercial parameters that you have to navigate in. By putting the innovation with us in Energy Cluster Denmark, it is possible for all the partners to access it with the specialists who make sense. It creates a good process “, she says:

“When four of the wind industry’s largest global players can see the point in developing innovation together under our auspices, we have reason to be well satisfied,” says Glenda Napier.