Two companies, Tethys Energy Services and Aerones, have won a competition to demonstrate remote blade maintenance techniques for offshore windfarms to one of the industry’s leading turbine manufacturers
The companies won a blade robotics innovation competition launched by GE Renewable Energy, the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult and KTN, which called for robotics solutions that could automate maintenance activity and reduce unplanned offshore activity.
Tethys and Aerones will deliver a new offshore transportation and delivery platform to enable the Aerones onshore wind robotics technology to work offshore.
The system will be able to deliver advanced remote inspection, maintenance and repair tasks on offshore wind turbine blades up to five times faster than conventional rope access, significantly reducing turbine downtime. It is also more scalable and much safer to deploy, removing the need for personnel to work at height.
The next stage in development will see Tethys and Aerones demonstrate prototype technology on ORE Catapult’s 7-MW Levenmouth demonstration turbine in Fife. In addition, GE Renewable Energy will provide technical support and guidance on how the technology could be used on the company’s offshore projects.
Tethys is establishing its operations base in the UK, from which it will provide a range of services to windfarms in Europe, growing its UK-based employees to 40 by 2024. Aerones intends to explore options for manufacturing the robots in the UK, creating a high value robotics manufacturing site focused on offshore wind.
The innovation competition, the first in a planned series of challenge competitions, was developed as part of GE and ORE Catapult’s Stay Ashore research and development programme and was delivered through the Offshore Wind Innovation Hub’s Innovation Exchange (OWiX) in partnership with KTN.
Adoption of robotics technology is seen as vital for the offshore wind sector, which, according to ORE Catapult research, could cut its inspection costs by almost 40% through integrating remote operations, robotics and automated systems into operations and maintenance activities.
GE Renewable Energy chief technology officer offshore wind Vincent Schellings said, “Innovative robotics solutions such as these have the ability to significantly reduce operation and maintenance costs. We look forward to working with these and other partners committing to drive the continued growth of offshore wind in the UK.”
ORE Catapult research and innovation director Dr Stephen Wyatt added “Bringing through new innovations from the robotics sector to help improve the operations and performance of offshore windfarms, and to continue to drive down costs, is vital if the UK is to meet ambitious installation targets of 40 GW by 2030, and achieve net-zero by 2050.
“Supporting companies like Tethys and Aerones to further develop and enhance their technology, and showcase their products to the industry’s leading operators and turbine manufacturers, brings a huge boost to the UK offshore wind supply chain, helping to create jobs and generate millions of pounds for the UK economy.”