The number of wind turbines on the Dutch coast is increasing enormously. Since 2022, the number of wind turbines has increased by as much as 40 percent. The more wind turbines, the more inspections need to take place. Regular inspections are necessary for proper maintenance, but can be dangerous to humans. For an ROV, however, this is a different story.
The Netherlands is currently the record holder in the EU for the most offshore wind energy. This is not surprising, given that the goal is to have 75 percent of our electricity supplied by wind turbines by 2030. Wind energy is cheap, does not emit CO2 and you are not dependent on other countries for supply.
Inspection hazard Inspecting a wind turbine is not just something. It is a dangerous job, which has caused many accidents in previous years. The traditional way of inspecting is to have someone climb the tower. This must be done on both the outside and inside. The dangerous thing about this is that the mills are eighty meters high, the blade diameters are one to three meters and the exits are minimal. One of the accidents was the unforgettable incident in 2013 when two technicians died in a fire in the turbine.
The costs of a manual inspection can also be significant. Many specialists work on it and the average turbine takes three to six hours to complete, without counting the preparation time. Do this for wind farms with multiple wind turbines and several times a year, you will lose a lot of money and time, while it could also be done differently.
Use of drones An alternative is to use drones to do the dangerous work, instead of employees. A drone can conduct extensive research from the air without any safety risks. Moreover, this method of inspection can be performed in only 12 percent of the time required for a traditional inspection. One downside to flying drones is that the turbine hubs and blades can pose a challenge for navigation. Strong winds can also knock the drone out of place.
Pipe crawlers Pipe crawlers are ROVs that cannot swim, but can drive underwater. These robots have metal wheels that allow them to stick to the surface of the wind turbine. They are therefore ideal for inspecting the windmill blades. They can drive through the turbine from top to bottom and record all the images in the meantime. The crawler can also reach the narrower parts of the leaf where a human would not have been able to do so. This means that the blades can be fully inspected without danger.
Use of an ROV It is important that wind turbines, that have perhaps been in the sea for some time, are inspected in time and regularly. An ROV can provide good insight into what is happening underwater using the 4K camera, sonar, bright lights and thickness gauge. We can also inspect other parts that are underwater, such as cables, cable entries and monopiles. These areas are filled with all kinds of underwater life. Think of crabs, jellyfish, starfish and coral. Take a look below at what we see at an underwater windmill.
Using an ROV to properly inspect wind turbines underwater provides certainty and reduces risks. The number of wind farms is increasing enormously, which will also increase the demand for inspections enormously. To do this as safely and precisely as possible, using an ROV is the solution. These underwater drones are made to get a complete picture and inspect everything, in the most difficult circumstances. Inspections can now take place regularly, without safety risks, to contribute to the maintenance of underwater structures.
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