The condition monitoring project is being led by UK-based wind turbine blade monitoring specialists Insensys in partnership with EDF Energy, E.ON, Romax Technology, SeeByte and Strathclyde University.

The consortium will develop and demonstrate advanced systems to monitor the condition and performance of wind turbines and predict future maintenance requirements for key components so they can be corrected before expensive damage occurs.

Systems will be installed on onshore wind turbines and tested for 18 months with a further year of tests planned for offshore wind turbines, to demonstrate the benefits and savings.

It is estimated that increased output, through reduced downtime, and reduced maintenance costs, could result in a benefit of up to £50,000 per wind turbine, per year.

ETI Chief Executive Dr David Clarke says: “One of the main barriers [for offshore wind] is the higher operation and maintenance costs due to the challenges associated with operating offshore.

“If turbines fail they can be difficult and costly to repair which is why it is important to spot potential damage or performance deterioration as early as possible.”

He adds that the project will develop “accurate models” for predicting potential damage and fatigue to wind turbines, providing warnings and identifying the causes of possible component failures – “before expensive repairs are needed or the turbine fails.”

It will also aim to identify the causes of fatigue, which should allow early action to be taken to increase reliability.

Insensys CEO Dr Toby King, says: “Energy generated from onshore wind turbines is now competitively priced with fossil fuels, but offshore wind is not there yet.

“We believe that this project will increase the output and reliability of wind turbines by detecting the causes of component damage and enabling them to be corrected, before the damage occurs. For example, many turbines today operate with blade imbalances which can rapidly lead to expensive gearbox and bearing damage, and yet are easy to correct.

“This technology will have the potential to significantly reduce the cost of energy from offshore wind turbines which is a very significant step towards making offshore wind competitive.”

The turbine conditioning monitoring system will cover all aspects of a wind turbine including the blades, bearings, gearbox, generator, power electronics and support structures.