Wind Turbines get smart IoT listening solution to monitor blade health

2 min read

Ping Monitor and Lattech Systems have partnered with u-blox for a smart IoT acoustic sensor to enable the continuous and remote monitoring of wind turbine blade health.

By enabling “always-on” monitoring, wind turbine operators are said to be able to reduce blade repair costs by up to 25% and blade replacement costs can be reduced by 30%.

Blade damage can occur due to erosion of either the tip or its leading-edge, lightning strikes, or by a weakening of structural integrity. Early damage detection allows prompt repair when the damage is smaller and cheaper to remedy.

Until recently, traditional monitoring of wind turbine blade health involved a once or twice per year human or drone inspection. Based on experience site technicians can ‘hear damage’, meaning that they are able to audibly detect when something is wrong.

Ping Monitor experts in acoustics, partnered with Lattech Systems, an IoT sensor design specialist to develop a solution which would automate the remote acoustic monitoring of wind turbine blades and alert operators when an issue was identified.

Critical to the success of the solution is the transmission of data from the sensor to the cloud and u-blox provides a scalable end-to-end IoT communication solution based on the MQTT message protocol.

Matthew Stead, co-founder and CEO, Ping, said; ‘’Ping analyses the sound from wind turbine blades to detect damage. The acoustic signature from a damaged blade is clearly different from a blade with no damage. It’s an innovative way to reduce risk for our customers because early detection reduces repair costs and avoids even costlier replacements.” 

Truhann van der Poel, founder of Lattech Systems added, ‘Our goal for this design was to make the complexity invisible to the customer. It needed simple connectivity, something that could work globally, with no setup, and that a customer could easily install. But the key differentiator was that we needed to solve the challenge of getting the data from the device to the cloud management platform, and that is where u-blox Thingstream came into play.’

The Lattech Systems LS091 Power and Communication Module (PCM) is a weatherproof IoT/M2M edge product with an integrated solar panel.  Harvested solar energy is stored and used to power both the connected sensors/actuators and communication to the cloud.  Cloud connectivity is achieved via u-blox SARA-R412M LTE-M / NB-IoT / 2G cellular module and MQTT Anywhere SIM-based communication service and located by the EVA-M8 GNSS positioning module. The LS091 and Ping acoustic sensor are both attached at the base of each wind turbine via magnets locally by the customer in less than 1 minute.

Getting data from IoT devices anywhere in the world to the enterprise is simplified through MQTT Anywhere, the u-blox IoT communication service delivered via the Thingstream IoT cloud platform.

MQTT Anywhere offers: Access to 600+ cellular networks in 190 countries for global rollout of IoT devices; MQTT-SN gateway enabling efficient connectionless LPWA communication; Simple predictable pricing based on the number of MQTT messages and Enterprise-grade IoT cloud platform utilizing auto-scaling technology

Once the Ping Monitor is attached to a wind turbine and is turned on, it automatically connects to the cloud and begins the important work of an intelligent listening sensor and of improving turbine performance through continuous monitoring in the cloud.

Early detection means earlier and more cost-effective repairs. Constant monitoring also removes the need to inspect towers that aren’t showing damage, which means you can reduce drone inspections to the pre-screened blades. Wind turbine operators can review data and analyse it remotely.

User-defined notification criteria can be set so key stakeholders remain informed on any significant condition changes.

Blade replacement costs can top $1.5mn, whereas damage repairs can cost, depending the severity of the damage, as little as $4-50k.