The ORE Catapult’s predictions2020-2030ORE Catapult predicts that by 2030, floating wind farms will become the norm, with significantly larger turbines generating over 15MW of energy, compared to the 7MW drivetrains today. Blades themselves will be larger, but novel materials will reduce the cost of the repairs and maintenance. ACT Blade, in Edinburgh, is leading in this field, using techniques borrowed from creating ultra-efficient sails from racing yachts to engineer textile blades.Drones and AI-driven monitoring systems will be commonplace, with Glasgow-based Wideblue’s internal blade inspection system, autonomous drones from Perceptual Robotics, Bristol, and Darlington’s Modus Seabed Intervention’s Automated Underwater Vehicle (AUV) and docking station meaning basic sub-sea repairs and maintenance can be carried out without human intervention. Rovco’s AI-driven 3D vision-based underwater survey solution is another example, with the Bristol company saying their tech could potentially save hundreds of millions on offshore inspections every year.Drones won’t be the only robots swarming over offshore turbines. Soon to be tested on real turbines at ORE Catapult’s testing facilities in Blyth, Bladebug is both the name of this London micro-SME and its innovative blade crawler. This robotic crawler could significantly reduce the cost and risk of blade maintenance activities – and can operate even when the wind is too strong for flying drones.Storage solutions being developed in the UK, such as Statoil’s BatWind technology will end intermittency issues inherent with existing wind power technology and ensure every ounce of renewable energy harnessed from the wind is used.2030-2040By 2040, turbines will be accompanied with a new type of technology. There will be extensive roll out of a floating kite power generator, such as that being developed by KPS (Kite Power Systems Ltd) in Glasgow, which uses a wing as a kite to harness power in a wider swept area than turbines can. Because the kites are lightweight, the systems use less material than conventional wind technology so produce energy at a lower cost.“KPS is currently developing a 500kW product that will be on the market in the early 2020s,” says Simon Heyes, chief exectuive at KPS. “Our vision has always been that this technology will have a significant impact on global deepwater wind at utility scale”.Turbines will take on a new look, with designs moving from the single-rotor designs we see today to arrays of multiple rotors on a single structure, drastically reducing installation and maintenance costs – as well as generating up to 20MW using small 500kW turbines.And those turbines will even benefit from even cheaper generators. Expensive rare-earth magnets will be replaced by cheap, abundantly available ferrite magnets thanks to an innovative generator developed by Essex’s GreenSpur Renewables.Robotic inspections, meanwhile, will become entirely autonomous, with advanced Artificial Intelligence making basic maintenance and repair operations cheaper than ever and Rovco expect to be offering fully autonomous unmanned survey solutions.2040-2050Wind turbines will continue to grow in size, with 200m blades being the norm in single-rotor designs. Because of their size, these blades will use an entirely new construction method, with flexible blade structures used to reduce the likelihood of breakage. Secondary rotors could start to be used on the tip of blades – where because of their high speed they will generate even more power from every gust.Vertical axis turbines, still in their infancy, will start to address the challenges current designs pose in weight, with larger traditional blades becoming less feasible on a tower structure. These vertical axis blades will have numerous other benefits, such as being able to generate power no matter which direction the wind is blowing in.This technology will benefit from the MagLev technology currently used for metro trains in Japan. Used in tandem with vertical axis turbines, this will reduce the friction between the turbine and the blade to zero, allowing greater yield by allowing generation with even less wind.The rise of the robots will continue with the introduction of the Mothership. These are fully autonomous boats that can transfer crew to turbines as well as more advanced robots and drones, acting both as a charging station and data-hub. These will allow for even more complex tasks and repairs to be carried out than ever before.
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