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Belwind wind farm and OWI Lab working together on innovative monitoring systems for offshore wind turbines foundations

The cooperation between the Belwind wind farm and Sirris’ Offshore Wind Infrastructure (OWI) Application Lab is a win-win partnership: the lab was given a chance to take offshore measurements and monitor a functioning wind farm, whilst Belwind gained greater insights into the behaviour and performance of its installations.

The challenge | Measuring the load on offshore wind turbines

Offshore wind turbines function in an extreme environment, and lab tests and simulations cannot tell us for certain how their various components respond under such circumstances. So Sirris’ Offshore Wind Infrastructure (OWI) Application Lab invested in innovative systems to conduct measurements out at sea, working closely alongside Belwind to ensure a successful outcome.

The solution | Joint OWI Lab & VUB measurement and monitoring campaigns

Towards the end of 2011, the OWI Lab started systematically fitting more sensors to Belwind's wind turbines, from their base right up to their nacelle. That measurement campaign continued in 2012, and the data it yielded enabled a more accurate assessment of the actual load and environmental factors and the validation of designs and models. Furthermore, continuous measurements enable the state of the foundations and components to be effectively monitored and accurately predicted.

One key aspect of the study was how to convert measurements taken out at sea into applicable knowledge. To do this, the lab teamed up with researchers from the Free University of Brussels (VUB). And today we are still monitoring various aspects of the situation at Belwind's wind farm, including the dynamic behaviour and corrosion of the turbine foundations.

The result | Putting accumulated knowledge to good use

Both partners benefit from this accumulation of knowledge about structural health monitoring. The OWI Lab has an opportunity to conduct research under real, live conditions at an offshore wind farm, and Belwind and its suppliers learn about the behaviour and performance of their wind turbines. The insights gained from the measurements taken can help wind farm operators like Belwind lower their operating and investment costs and also enhance the reliability and extend the service life of their turbines and components.

The relevance of Sirris’ contribution clearly emerges from the tremendous interest it has aroused, both in Belgium and abroad, in industrial and academic circles, and is also reflected in the many contributions at conferences, events and in magazines. At the OWI Lab won the Best Research Poster award for this research.