TIRI of NARLabs Builds Up the Remote Sensing Optoelectronic Instrument Technology to Support Taiwan Wind Energy Industry

Developing wind power is an important government energy policy. Taiwan Instrument Research Institute (TIRI) of  National Applied Research Laboratories (NARLabs) has successfully developed a remote sensing technology for large-scale wind turbines in 2019 to monitor the operation condition of large-scale onshore and offshore wind turbines in real time, and provides industry important tool for operation and maintenance.

The monitoring instrument developed by TIRI integrates high-resolution infrared thermal image sensor and telescope optical system, which can monitor the operation safety of wind turbines onshore and offshore beyond visual range (about 1.5 kilometers), and provide damage warnings and the degree of decline in early diagnosis. At present, the wind farm at Cap of Good Hope in Houlung, Miao Li has completed the field test and confirmed that the monitoring instrument can meet the actual monitoring application requirements.

Taiwan Strait has abundant wind resources. For satisfying domestic necessary energy needs, the development of large-scale onshore and offshore wind power technology is one of the important technologies to solve the problem of the continuous shortage of fossil energy. Offshore wind turbines are usually located in the deep ocean. For embedded sensors, regular maintenance and repair of sensor circuits will not be easy. To minimize downtime, repairs must be made quickly and cost effectively. Therefore, the development of a new type of long-distance, non-contact, and real-time monitoring and early warning system is becoming critical technology for the successful development of offshore wind turbine systems.

A wind turbine is like a small-scale power plant. The energy in the wind drives blades to rotate, causing the gear box inside the nacelle to spin to create electricity. Consequently, the monitoring of the condition of each component and blade structure is relatively important. Blowing sand with salt and dust particles, is hard on the inflow edges of rotating blade. It will lead to erosion and crack formations. Over time, blade surface will become rough. Once the friction is increased, the fiberglass on the blade will gradually spall. The damage will significantly diminish energy yields. Moreover, if blades damage or decline is not actively treated, that can also create gearbox failures that contributes to wind turbine damage.

Infrared thermal imaging is a non-contact sensing technology which can convert the surface temperature distribution of objects into visible images quickly and accurately. Therefore, the technology is often used in industrial inspection field to measure surface temperature of components which are high-temperature or hard to reach. TIRI integrates a high-resolution infrared thermal image sensor with a telescope optical system to remotely capture the infrared thermal image of wind turbine blades to provide the thermal image status of the overall structural surface. When the surface of the wind turbine blade structure is damaged, its heat radiation distribution will be different from that when it is not damaged, and problem areas such as cracks and openings on the blade can be easily identified. In addition, the blade structure is liable to generate high heat radiation loss at high vibration frequencies. Assisted by continuous monitoring of temperature changes, detailed safety monitoring and evaluation can be conducted. Compared with traditional single-point or multi-point embedded sensors deformation monitoring systems, the comprehensive monitoring of two-dimensional images can achieve much better results.

Currently, wind turbine equipment in Taiwan is imported from abroad. Maintenance support could be a good opportunity for Taiwan local industry to participate the wind energy industry. With the extensive experience gained from long-term projects focused on developing remote sensing payloads for Formosa satellites, TIRI’s technology can be applied to the real-time remote monitoring system used in wind generators as well as greatly benefit Taiwan’s wind energy industry in its development.

The TIRI-developed monitoring system integrates a high-resolution infrared image sensor and a telescope optical system: (a) Remote monitor wind turbine,  (b) Infrared thermal image, (c) Visible image