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Intelligent and cost-efficient wind turbine power production using optical sensors

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ICEWIS (Intelligent and cost-efficient wind turbine power production using optical sensors)

Reporting period: 2016-03-01 to 2016-07-31

Sensors are widely used for optimization of technical systems. In most cases they are electrical, hence not safe to operate e.g. on wind turbines blades due to lightning risk, on fuel tanks, in strong magnetic fields or close to generators due to the risk of electrical short circuits. Furthermore, cabling is costly, can be cumbersome to handle and signals are difficult to transmit reliably over long distances. CEKO Sensors, a spin-out from the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), will disrupt the sensor market by providing sensors that are 100% optical, frequency modulated, have very high sensitivity and are metal-free. The force sensitivity of the sensors has shown to be 1200 times larger than what can be obtained using comparable technologies. At the same time the physical size is 100 times smaller and the weight 3000 times less than other sensors on the market today. These unique features make them invaluable for applications where sensitivity, size and weight are critical parameters. The initial proof-of-market application for the CEKO sensor is wind turbines. Wind turbines have been selected as CEKO sensors addresses several significant challenges for wind turbines owners: Monitoring of blade damages for reduced maintenance and repair costs, optimization of blade loads for efficient production and detection of icing on the blades, which has a high impact on the power production, cost-of-energy and the safety on ground, thus providing society with more reliable and safe renewable energy at a significantly reduced cost. The objectives of the overall innovation projects are to finalize the development of the optical technology for wind turbines, conduct full scale field tests in collaboration with wind turbine owners, obtain required industry certifications and demonstrate cost-savings, i.e. reduced cost-of-energy.
During the ICEWIS project metal-free optical microchip sensors have been fabricated and assembled in a suitable packaging solution and a data acquisition system for live remote monitoring of the sensors has been designed and fabricated. The sensors and data acquisition system was installed on a Vestas V-52 wind turbine connected to the Danish power grid for field testing of the technology in a realistic environment for one month. Data obtained during the test period clearly shows the characteristic vibrations from the wind turbine during operating, including fundamental and higher order harmonics. The field test demonstrated that the metal-free sensor technology is capable of monitoring wind turbine vibrations for prolonged time and that useful information can be obtained. Inspection of the optical system after uninstallation showed that both sensor and data acquisition system still performed according to specifications, validating the robustness of the system. Parallel with the technical work a detailed commercial analysis of the technology and potential markets has been performed resulting in a comprehensive business plan including market analysis, market positioning, competitor analysis, risk analysis, go-to-market strategy, detailed budgeting and exit strategy analysis. The commercial work has been based on both analysis and direct meetings and discussions with potential customers including system integrators, wind turbine manufacturers and wind turbine operators. This work confirmed that a large and growing market exists for wind turbine blade monitoring, as well as a solid business case for a metal-free MEMS optical accelerometer.
The metal-free MEMS optical accelerometer is the first of its kind and it is currently unique among sensors. The field test of the ICEWIS project was the first test of the technology in a realistic environment and thus a major step forward compared to existing sensor technology. The test showed that metal-free accelerometers are no longer just to be found in laboratory experiments, but have real applications in structural health monitoring on wind turbines blades and can monitor relevant vibration patterns from the blades. The value of the technology was confirmed by operators and manufacturers in the wind turbine market and the market size and market impact was found to be even larger than expected before the ICEWIS project. The main value of the technology for wind turbine manufacturers and operators is the reduced cost-of-energy, which has a direct socio-economic impact.
metal-free MEMS optical sensor microchips on silicon wafer