As part of the Cost Reductions for Offshore Wind Power Generation project of the Green Innovation Fund Projects subsidized by NEDO, Toshiba Energy Systems & Solutions Corporation (Toshiba ESS) is undertaking work to increase technological sophistication in the operation and maintenance of offshore wind turbines. Toshiba ESS has recently undertaken demonstration activities at the Sozu Wind System wind farm (Ainan-cho, Minamiuwa District, Ehime Prefecture, Japan) that belongs to Shikoku Wind Power Co., Ltd., and has completed its evaluation of the technology required for fully automated inspections of the blades of 15 MW class wind turbines using drones. As a result, on the horizon now are fully automated inspections in which an inspection drone detects, during flight, the position and orientation of a wind turbine and the resting position of its blades, and it also automatically tracks the turbine blades as they sway due to waves and wind and captures images of them. Toshiba ESS aims to complete the technology verification of fully automated inspection by February 2024.
Going forward, the commercialization of fully automated inspections for blades will enable regular inspections as well as emergency inspections to be performed when abnormalities are detected in wind turbine blades after a lightning strike or other such situations without the need to dispatch maintenance engineers to the turbine. This means that in addition to facilitating lower costs through a reduction in labor costs and the transport costs incurred to send maintenance engineers to turbines, it is anticipated that fully automated inspections will contribute to reduced inspection costs for and the increased installation of offshore wind farms, mainly floating wind turbines, given that the benefits they deliver include the ability to address the issue of labor shortages.