Whenever new wind farms are being proposed, there is always the question of how much maintenance activity will cost, and if it would be too high to justify the construction. Now, one team in Scotland is hoping to take that out of the equation by reducing the amount of maintenance these structures need. 

The research is being done at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow by the school’s Center for Advanced Condition Monitoring (CACM). The experts are developing new technologies that will improve the monitoring and testing of wind turbines, which includes sensors that are controlled remotely and can keep tabs on how adverse weather conditions affect the machinery inside. 

The research has been going on since 2011, and several benchmarks have been notched in recent months. 

“The Center for Advanced Condition Monitoring is positioned to play an important role in helping to meet renewable energy targets for Scotland and will provide cost effective technology that maximizes the potential of wind turbine operations,” said Dr. Francis Quail, Director of the CACM. “This research partnership is allowing the University of Strathclyde to develop next generation tools and solutions to enhance Scotland’s reputation as world leader in renewable energy.”

Quail added that the positive research is thanks to the partnerships the school has formed with key members of the industry, which he said has helped the program make “a significant impact on the challenges facing the renewable energy sector.”

One device developed by the team can be used by power companies to measure how large an impact changes in wind, such as turbulence and gust structure, can lower the projected lifespan of a turbine. The group is currently testing the devices at a facility in Glasgow. 

“Our extensive involvement in offshore windfarm projects has highlighted the huge potential and also significant challenges that face the industry,” said Ian Irvine, technical director with research partner SgurrEnergy. “Offshore wind projects can be difficult working environments and consequently costs can be extremely high. Quality information on windfarm operational performance is essential to ensure that optimum decisions can be made.”

Not only could the research lead to longer lifespans for wind farms, but it could also help the energy source proliferate. Already, installed wind capacity has soared in the U.S., led by Texas, which had 12,212 megawatts of wind power capacity by the end of 2012.

This could grow even higher as testing technologies advance and contribute to lower maintenance costs, making windfarms even more attractive.