Integrated Health Monitoring for Wind Turbines

Early warning of structural problems in the towers or blades of wind turbines is vital to keep renewable energy flowing reliably to the grid. Integrated Health Monitoring for Wind Turbines brings nanotechnologies to the task of ubiquitous monitoring.

Wind turbines are often located in remote places, subject to harsh conditions. It is essential to monitor their health, to know when the effects of these conditions pose a risk of structural failure. A team of i4Energy researchers at UC Davis is employing the unique properties of tiny carbon nanotubes to create strong, multifunctional coatings that can detect structural strain and deformation.

The nano-coating is sprayed onto the turbine blades or towers — or any other surface — to monitor changes or growing problems in the structure. Varying degrees of deformation alter the electrical properties of the coating, and electrodes affixed at its boundaries record and transmit these strain measurements via a wireless sensor monitoring system.

Tests of the coatings are being conducted in the lab under static and dynamic loads, and will be refined by field tests, using the test wind turbine on the roof of UC Davis’s Bainer Hall and a prototype wireless sensor monitoring system. The work integrates and advances the disparate fields of composite materials (used in turbine blades), interaction of aero-elastic structures, structural dynamics, and nanotechnology-based sensors. Learn more >>