Joint venture's intelligent blades to self-monitor in real time

Wind turbine blade manufacturer LM Glasfiber has entered into a new three-year research project, supported by the Danish National Advanced Technology Foundation, and intended to develop and integrate laser-based wind sensing systems with future wind turbines.

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Wind turbine blade manufacturer LM Glasfiber (Kolding, Denmark) has entered into a new three-year research project, supported by the Danish National Advanced Technology Foundation, and intended to develop and integrate laser-based wind sensing systems with future wind turbines. The project, announced Dec. 22, 2009, is a joint venture with Risø DTU, the national laboratory for sustainable energy at the Technical University of Denmark (Roskilde), and laser technology specialist NKT Photonics (Birkerød). The joint venture aims to significantly improve control of the loads imposed on wind turbines in operation, thus enhancing their efficiency and improving their overall reliability.

“LM Glasfiber is working on several projects to improve the efficiency of the blades and, consequently, the overall energy production from the wind turbine,” says Lars Fuglsang, LM Glasfiber’s research director. “An important part of this is developing ‘intelligent’ blades that measure the wind and either adapt to the current wind conditions or supply data to the wind turbine control system.”

Integrating so-called LIDARs (light detection and ranging — optical remote sensing technology) into LM’s composites blades is expected to create a system superior to the company’s previous blade-monitoring technology and has the potential to provide an impressive leap in energy yield — up to 5 percent over the turbine’s 20-year lifetime.

“Whereas current blade-monitoring technologies measure the loads on the blades, integrating LIDARs into the blade enables us to measure the exact wind conditions to which the blades are exposed,” Fuglsang explains. “This means that instead of looking in the rearview mirror and realizing what the blade has been exposed to, we will be able to measure the wind in real-time and either have the blade or the wind turbine react right away.” A prototype of the LIDAR technology will be available in 2012, says the company, and LIDAR-enabled intelligent blades will be available to customers in 2014.

The LIDAR announcement followed LM’s revelation, four days earlier, of a strategic cooperation agreement with Samsung Heavy Industries Co. Ltd. (Seoul, South Korea) to supply blades for Samsung’s new 2.5 MW wind turbine. The deal comprises a firm blade supply contract for a minimum of 1,500 MW over the next five years. The blades will be delivered from LM Glasfiber’s facilities in the U.S.

“Samsung sees a large potential in the growing wind market,” says Sung Yong Han, executive VP of Samsung’s Wind Division. “We have chosen LM Glasfiber as the supplier of blades for our new wind turbine because of their strong global presence in all major wind markets, their extensive R&D capabilities and their long, proven track record.”