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Blade inspection : Anticipate major problems.

Since 2014, VALEMO has been performing visual inspections of wind turbine blades from the ground. These inspections allow the detection of defects on the blade coatings and structures.

  • On-site data acquisition

About 15 technical staff are trained in on-site data acquisition, using a 600 mm lens, a motorised head, a high-definition camera and acquisition software as shown in Figure 1. The data is then processed to reconstruct the four surfaces of the three blades of each wind turbine.

VALEMO’s teams are autonomous during the entire acquisition phase, from the installation of the equipment to the sending of the data to our partner, including the piloting of the wind turbines. Our skills and the instructions we have developed through our experience enable us to inspect all types and manufacturers of wind turbines.

  • Data expertise

Following the acquisition of data on site, the 12 surfaces of each wind turbine (4 surfaces inspected per blade) are digitised in order to reconstitute a digital twin of each blade, available on a dedicated web platform. The data is stored, historicised and available at all times.

Two VALEMO experts are trained to analyse these data in order to characterise and categorise the defects. Generally, erosion defects on the leading edge of the blades are found in a recurrent manner, with a more or less pronounced phenomenon as shown in figure 2.

Figure 2 – Evolution of erosion from weakly pronounced (left) to strongly pronounced (right).

Leading edge erosion has an impact on the efficiency of the blade and therefore on energy production. This is why it is important to repair the impacted coatings in order to preserve the production but also the structure of the blade.

Anticipating a repair makes it possible in most cases to carry it out directly on the blade and thus avoid lowering it to the ground. The earlier a repair is carried out, the less difficult it is to deal with and therefore the less the production of the wind turbine is affected.

Defects on the blade structures are also detected, and can be related to manufacturing problems or lightning strikes for example, as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3 – Illustration of a structural defect due to a lightning strike.

In the case of structural defects, it is necessary to intervene quickly to carry out the repair work to preserve the structural integrity of the blade.

  • Key figures

In 2022, we carried out blade inspections on 330 wind turbines using our two inspection kits, in France and Europe, on more than 60 wind farms. Our extensive coverage of the French territory allows us to be competitive and our expertise, with an operator’s perspective, is often recognised as a guarantee of confidence by our clients.

  • Partners

We are supported by partners recognised for their expertise in data processing (CORNIS), rope access inspection and defect repair (HELIOPALES).

  • Developments

We are also equipped with equipment that allows us to carry out a lighter inspection in order to comply with the half-yearly frequency imposed by the ICPE decree in France. This faster inspection is carried out with the machine freewheeling or running. This system makes it possible to offer a very competitive product but with a lower level of accuracy.

In 2023, we will be investing heavily in drone data acquisition equipment to adapt to certain types of onshore machines and to simplify data acquisition on offshore machines.

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