Current WT Capacity

The world wind turbine generating capacity in 2020 was approximately 743GW [1], with Europe generating approximately 220GW (194GW onshore and 25GW offshore) [2]. In Europe this equates to a total of 458TWh of electricity being generate [2]. Approximately 16.4% of Europe’s electricity demand was supplied by wind power (13.4% from onshore and 3% from offshore wind) [2]. Europe installed 14.7 GW of new wind capacity in 2020, and 17.GW (14 GW onshore and 3.4 GW offshore) in 2021 [2] [3]. However, this rate of increase is not sufficient to meet energy and climate goals set by The European Union [3] [4] [3]. Currently 80% of new wind installations are onshore, with each wind turbine having an average power rating of 3.3MW. Offshore wind accounts for the remainder, with each wind turbine having an average power rating of 8.2MW [2]. The EU currently has approximately 70% of the world’s total offshore capacity [5].

Projected WT Installation

The EU has targeted a minimum cut in greenhouse gas emissions of 55% by 2030, an increase from its previous target of 32%, whilst the global energy demand is projected to increase by 9% from 2019 to 2030 [6]. For the EU to achieve its new emissions target by 2030, an increase of between 40% [4] and 66% [1] renewable energy is required, the majority of which will be wind or solar [6]. Europe will install an estimated 105GW of wind power between 2022 and 2026. Currently the EU27 is projected to install 75GW at a rate of 15GW per year. This is below the 18GW annual target, required to achieve the existing 2030 renewable energy target of 32% [2]. An increase of 32GW a year is needed to reach the 55% target [3]. It is estimated that there will be a 70:30 split between onshore and offshore wind power generation [2]. Based on an average power rating of a 3.3MW for an onshore and 8.2MW for an offshore wind turbine. A minimum of 3,100 onshore and 550 offshore additional wind turbines will be required to achieve each 15GW increase; with 6,800 onshore and 1,200 offshore to achieve each 32GW increase.

Risk/Accidents Associated with WTs

WTB inspections are hazardous, with accidents and fatalities among inspectors being an all-too-common occurrence. In 2020 there was a total of 532 reported incidents with 86% associated with an operational wind farms [7], as opposed to their deployment or manufacture. Of these injuries, 41% were to the hand, 29% to the back and 14% to the legs. The majority were associated with routine maintenance (approximately 24%), followed by access/egress of the tower (approximately 16%) and working with the electrical systems (approximately 9%) [7]. With such a significant increase in the number of wind turbines being installed, the number of accidents can only be expected to increase. With health and safety of operatives being of paramount importance, any steps that can be taken to improve their welfare and reduce risk will have a significant effect.

The SheaRIOS Solution

SheaRIOS is a robotic inspection system operated from ground level and remote from the wind turbine. It is expected that the SheaRIOS system will operate in conjunction drone-based visual inspection, enabling in-situ subsurface investigation, thereby saving time and money. It will provide:
  • Improved health and safety, with minimal working at height.
  • Semi-automatic WTB inspection from ground level.
  • Sub-surface defect detection.
  • Reduced wind turbine down-time and lost energy production.
  • More efficient use of resources and trained personnel.
  • Potential for risk-based inspection (RBI) that can lead to a reduced inspection frequency.
[1] statista.com, “Global cumulative installed wind power capacity from 2001 to 2020,” [Online]. Available: https://www.statista.com/statistics/268363/installed-wind-power-capacity-worldwide/. [Accessed 02 03 2022].
[2] I. Komusanac, G. Brindley, D. Fraile and L. Ramirez, “Wind energy in Europe – 2020 Statistics and the outlook for 2021-2025,” [Online]. Available: https://s1.eestatic.com/2021/02/24/actualidad/210224_windeurope_combined_2020_stats.pdf. [Accessed 02 03 2022].
windeurope, “Wind energy in Europe: 2021 Statistics and the outlook for 2022-2026,” [Online]. Available: https://windeurope.org/intelligence-platform/product/wind-energy-in-europe-2021-statistics-and-the-outlook-for-2022-2026/. [Accessed 02 03 2022].
[4] A. Frangoul, “SUSTAINABLE ENERGY,” CNBC, 2022 02 24. [Online]. Available: https://www.cnbc.com/2022/02/24/europe-installed-a-record-amount-of-wind-power-in-2021.html. [Accessed 02 03 2022].
[5] European Commission, “Wind energy,” [Online]. Available: https://ec.europa.eu/info/research-and-innovation/research-area/energy-research-and-innovation/wind-energy_en. [Accessed 02 03 2022].
[6] G. Ertek and L. Kailas, “Analyzing a Decade of Wind Turbine Accident News with Topic Modeling,” Sustainability , vol. 13, no. 12757, 2021.
[7] A. Thomas, Energy Voice, 28 06 2021.

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