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Innovative AI solutions in the wind power industry

One of the biggest challenges to growth remains the operations and maintenance issues.

windfarm
Image: Unsplash

Fast shifts in artificial intelligence have profound impacts on businesses as well as society overall. Worldwide revenues for the artificial intelligence (AI) market, including software, hardware, and services, are forecast to grow 16.4% year over year in 2021 to $327.5 billion, according to the latest release (IDC). Today, many industries try to implement AI technologies in their business to solve the issues they are facing and the wind power industry is not an exception. 

Nowadays, wind energy was the source of about 8.4% of total U.S. electricity generation and about 43% of electricity generation from renewable energy in 2020. Wind turbines convert wind energy into electricity. However, as with other renewable energies, the wind-power industry still faces many obstacles. One of the biggest challenges to growth remains the operations and maintenance issues. 

What are the main problems in wind farm maintenance?

In fact, wind turbines need to be inspected regularly. They are susceptible to damage, and even the smallest of cracks can lead to massive amounts of damage and costly repairs. These inspections are often carried out by human teams. The process of wind turbine inspection is very dangerous to these workers.

The most common solution to the danger of turbine inspections has been new safety harnesses and other safety measures. Many wind farms have turned to using drones to carry inspections, but the drones they use lack the necessary technology to collect accurate and useful inspection data. Some wind farms are starting to find a solution in AI and machine learning technology, a rapidly evolving industry.

What AI solution has been offered?

Artificial intelligence, when applied in the field of renewable energy, is able to do something often considered impossible: to combine public and private interests, generating advantages for both. It represents an essential tool for maximizing the production of clean energy and preserving the environment.

At the same time, it boosts the performance and competitiveness of market players, making this business more attractive. Thanks to artificial intelligence, today it is possible to accurately evaluate the potential downtime of components.This leads to an increase in plant productivity, a reduction in component replacement costs, and a longer overall life expectancy.

Many companies tried to introduce new technologies aiming to solve issues in the industry, one of them is Korean aerospace engineering startup – Nearthlab has come up with autonomous AI drones that can inspect wind turbines in less than twenty minutes in the most accurate and safest way ever. 

Compared to the traditional way of inspecting wind turbines, under which inspectors had to find cracks manually using telephoto lens from a distant location, Nearthlab’s autonomous drones can take high resolution, close-up photos of the wind turbines entirely on its own. In addition, Nearthlab’s proprietary crack detection solution can analyze cracks or damages that are as small as a few millimeters and automatically generate inspection reports on the status of each wind turbine as well as the entire wind farm.

The reason that the wind power plant was the first target is that the utility value that can be obtained through safety inspection using drones is greater than that of other facilities. CEO Choi said, “It takes a day to inspect a wind power plant using manpower, but it takes 15 minutes to use Nearthlab drones.” “The saving of inspection time and manpower is directly related to profits. “It’s a very important part for the institution.” Nearthlab’s autonomous flying drone provides high-definition images of the entire generator in 15 minutes. The photos taken in this way are analyzed by Nearthlab solutions and provided to customers in the form of reports.

CEO Choi predicted that the industrial drone market will grow further in the future. “Industrial drones are in the process of changing to subscription models with special purposes,” he said. “Currently, vertical fields such as wind power, construction, and agriculture are being opened one by one.” Nearthlab is also planning to publicize its name as a safety inspection drone in various fields, starting with the inspection of wind power plants in the growing industrial drone market.

CEO Choi said, “I hope that Nearthlab can become a standardization of industrial drones,” and said, “The goal is to recognize Nearthlab as a drone that everyone uses during facility safety inspections.”

The use of AI and deep learning by Nearthlab’s drones show how we can apply modern tech innovations to big problems in the power industry.

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