Correct bending of wind turbines blades is crucial. The slightest deviation of the ideal shape, reduces performance and increases the risk of failure. Fibersail has developed a smart monitoring system that measures the bending accuracy and the structural behaviour of rotor blades. This information can improve performance by more than 2 percent, increasing global revenues up to 3 billion euros a year, CEO Pedro Pinto says.
For which problem did you find a solution?
“Like the sails of a ship, the bending of the blades of a wind turbine is very critical for their performance. When blades are not in the right balance, the blades underperform and, by consequence, the turbine generates less electricity. Nowadays, operators lack information about blade’s behavior. Existing condition monitoring systems are inaccurate or expensive. Not knowing how the blades behave real-time, the wind industry spills hundreds of million euros.”
Can you describe your solution?
“We have developed an integrated condition monitoring system powered by fiber optic shape sensing technology, to measure blades in a precise and remote way. Our monitoring systems includes a set of optical fibers with integrated sensors, measuring the shape of the blade along the entire length. It measures the bending during operation with great accuracy in a very cost efficient way. It’s aimed to be connected to the pitch control system in the turbine. When the shape deviates from the calculated parameters, the pitch control system automatically restores the balance by changing the load.”
What’s so pioneering about your application?
“The uniqueness of our system is twofold: the way we integrate the sensors in the blades and the way we relate the data in our monitoring system, enabling the system to be cost efficient.”
What are the benefits?
“The real-time information generated by this shape sensing technology will help wind turbines to optimize performance and availability, while preventing failures, reducing maintenance costs and extending the lifetime of blades. In addition, by applying our solution, we estimate the performance of a wind turbine to be improved about 2 percent. Worldwide this could mean a growth in revenues up to 3 billion euros a year.”
What are the challenges?
“For a startup, bringing innovation to the market from an R&D level, always presents challenges on the financial side and market validation.”
Where are you now?
“We started 3 years ago with the idea creation in Portugal. In 2015, we established a Dutch company in Rotterdam and followed the PortXL accelerator program, although we still keep the development in Portugal. Currently testing large scale prototypes, we expect that within a year from now our system could be in a wind turbine.
At Fibersail we believe that critical structures, such as rotor blades, will be smart enough to optimize performance and prevent failures automatically. We aim to drive this trend as a main contributor to the creation of such systems based on our shape sensing technology.”