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Robots revolutionize wind turbine repairs

After more than 18 months in operation and having repaired more than 150 rain-damaged onshore wind turbine blades on three continents, Danish company Rope Robotics’ patented robot, a leader in robotic blade maintenance, has proven to be an efficient and cost-effective solution for turbine owners. Rope Robotics’ technology enables wind turbine blade repairs up to four times faster and at half the cost compared to manual alternatives.

Damage caused by rain erosion is becoming increasingly severe and can compromise the aerodynamic performance of the blade, even leading to blade breakage and costly turbine downtime. Previously, technicians had to rappel down from the nacelle to the blade and work with harmful chemicals, which presented a high-risk, weather-dependent working environment. Rope Robotics repairs, in contrast, are fast, cost-effective, efficient and safe, allowing technicians to perform them in all but the most inclement weather conditions.

Rope Robotics’ “BR-8” robot is responsible for restoring up to 3% of energy production in less than a day per shovel and at half the cost of manual solutions. The nine robots that Rope Robotics has brought to market have been used in countries such as the United States, Canada, South Africa and Europe and have received very good feedback from its customers. After six months, the investment in the robotic repair service has proven to be profitable, according to the company’s calculations.

At the heart of the system is a robot equipped with visual sensors that operates the repair tools via a flexible arm. Technicians can monitor the robot from anywhere, either on-site or remotely. The 150 kg robot is first attached to ropes anchored to the gondola before being hoisted about 100 m above the ground onto the damaged shovel, which has been fixed in an upright position. A vacuum system allows the robot to be firmly attached to the shovel, while motors allow it to move around the shovel.