Wind turbine operators benefit from digitalised inspection

TÜV SÜD presents a smart solution for inspecting wind turbines and systematically evaluating the findings. The solution enables results to be recorded on site using mobile devices and saved in a database in a structured manner in accordance with the RDS-PP® industry standard. TÜV SÜD's smart inspection system can be used for onshore and offshore wind turbines.

TÜV SÜD has developed a database-supported IT solution which represents a major step forward for wind turbine inspection and is a further milestone along the wind energy industrys progress towards Industry 4.0, the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution. "Inspectors with clipboards are now a thing of the past", says Dr Martin Webhofer, Head of Wind Energy at TÜV SÜD Industrie Service GmbH. "Our end-to-end digitalised inspection system for wind turbines combines high-efficiency processes with structured data acquisition based on the codes set forth in the RDS-PP® industry standard. This is an advanced version of the German KKS, the proven international system for power plant designation."

One of the key preconditions for the introduction of digitalised inspection was the possibility of applying RDS-PP® to wind turbines. The system assigns codes to components which serve as unique descriptorsof the individual components of a system, their location and function, and enables them to be categorised. "The system eliminates any confusion arising from the use of different terminology for the same components by inspection or service staff or manufacturers documentation; such confusion represents a significant obstacle in systematic evaluation of turbine condition, and thus makes optimised maintenance far harder to achieve", explains Dr Webhofer.

The same benefits apply to the standard classification for component conditions, based on the ZEUS code (the German acronym for Condition Incident Cause Code) under the Technical Guidelines for Wind Turbines, Part 7: Operation and maintenance of power plants for renewable energy, of the Fördergesellschaft Windenergie und andere Erneuerbare Energien (FGW - German Wind Energy and Renewables Association). In future, free text descriptions of identified faults or defects will be the exception.

When conducting inspections, TÜV SÜDs experts record their data using a special app on mobile devices like smartphones or tablets. The findings are classified and structured, then automatically transmitted to a tamper-proof archive system and database. To achieve this, TÜV SÜD has expanded its electronic inspection log for wind turbines, netDocX, a proven system in operation for more than ten years. "Users are completely unaware of the complex technology in the background", says Dr. Webhofer. "Prompted and supported by the user-friendly app, our experts are free to focus on their main tasks - inspecting and testing the turbines. All they need to do is to enter their data on the touchscreen of their mobile device." For example, by tapping the screen they can photograph a faulty oil pipe and assign it to the relevant component. No need to laboriously copy photo data manually and insert them into the report after the inspection.

Database for condition-based maintenance strategies
The inspection report is automatically generated from the information entered, and is saved immediately after data input in the netDocX electronic log, which turbine operators can access directly from the Internet or using the app. "Systematic recording and saving all inspection data provides a whole host of benefits", says Dr Webhofer. They range from immediate automated generation of inspection reports to simplified and streamlined data management processes, achieved by allowing turbine operators to access all inspection data and reports for the turbines from a central source.

Operators of large numbers of turbines are particularly appreciative of the extensive synergies created by the system and the informative statistics it delivers - for example, most frequently occurring faults or faults grouped by manufacturer or region - and can adjust their maintenance concepts and strategies accordingly. "The data collected by the system enables operators to cut their maintenance costs, while also optimising the availability, and thus the profitability, of their turbines", concludes Dr. Webhofer. Customers of TÜV SÜD can already use a basic version of the app free of charge, enabling the benefits of TÜV SÜDs end-to-end digital solution to be enjoyed by operators and maintenance companies for routine inspections.

Wind energy services from TÜV SÜD
TÜV SÜD has extensive experience in certifying wind farms, wind turbines and components, both onshore and offshore. The international testing and certification service provider also supports planners, manufacturers, installation companies, investors and operators in risk analysis, occupational safety concepts and quality control during construction. Further areas of focus are quality assurance in component production and periodic inspection of wind turbines throughout their operational life.

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