Increase revenue by preventing humidity-related issues in wind turbines
The combination of airborne moisture and salts inside offshore wind turbines creates severe challenges – and risks of breakdown. To prevent humidity-related issues and ensure revenue, relative humidity sensors are vital.
Offshore wind farms operate under extreme conditions, which demands continuous monitoring and diagnostic tests. Monitoring humidity is particularly crucial due to the high level of moisture and salt in the offshore air. In fact, it is a well-known industry fact that humidity-related issues are responsible for 20% of wind turbine downtime and breakdowns.
A fundamental part of the continuous monitoring in wind farms is measuring the relative humidity:
“Offshore conditions are extreme, and it is of utmost importance to focus on the relative humidity level in wind turbines in order to prevent risks of downtime and breakdown.”Keld Reimer Hansen Key Account Manager at Senmatic
The primary humidity-related risks and challenges in wind turbines
High levels of relative humidity can lead to issues that obstruct the commercial operation and profitability of wind farms.
Some of the most common humidity-related issues in wind turbines include condensation, corrosion, electrical and mechanical issues, as well as mould, fungi and bacterial growth.
Condensation appears when air has a different temperature than materials and surfaces it comes in contact with. The result is that some of the airborne moisture appears as condensation.
Condensation can lead to water pooling on colder surfaces as well as other difficulties. In low-temperature surroundings, condensation can lead to ice formation, increasing energy consumption, and causing hygiene and safety issues.
Metal corrosion can happen when airborne moisture is combined with oxygen. When the relative humidity reaches a level of 60%, corrosion thrives – and with a further increase in humidity follows an exponential increase in corrosion.
Corrosion can cause serious damages on surfaces, electronics and electrical equipment, which reduces reliability, efficiency and lifetime of the turbines, while increasing maintenance costs.
Electrical and mechanical issues
Combining electricity with high moisture levels rarely leads to positive results. High levels of humidity can cause operating malfunctions in electrical installations and sensitive electronics.
Malfunctions and other electrical or mechanical issues have negative consequences for uptime and operational reliability and lead to increased maintenance costs.
Mould, fungi and bacterial growth
Humidity absorbed by building materials like timber or plaster creates optimal conditions for all kinds of mould, fungi and bacterial growths to thrive.
Mould, fungi and bacteria can affect both structural integrity, value, usability and appearance. This can then lead to significant damages to materials as well as cause significant health risks.
The damaging consequences of humidity-related issues
The consequences of humidity-related issues such as condensation, corrosion or bacterial growth can be very damaging for wind farm operators. Besides health and safety issues for service teams, the costs of constant repairs, service and maintenance are a notable threat to profitability.
As mentioned, humidity-related issues are responsible for 20% of wind turbine downtime and breakdowns – leading to severe production and revenue losses, further entailing weaker cost of energy statistics.
Advantages of humidity sensors
To avoid humidity-related issues and their potentially critical consequences, sensors for continuous monitoring are essential. Humidity sensors placed in the nacelle and in the bottom of the turbine read the relative humidity, enabling technicians to react to changes or deviations in the operation conditions.
If the relative humidity sensors detect deviations, a message is sent to the data command center. Operators are then able to react to possible leaks or other issues, before the high level of humidity causes further problems or risks. Thus, humidity sensors are used preemptively.
High accuracy humidity sensors create several advantages. First of all, the sensors ensure lower costs for service and maintenance, while increasing the safety for operators and maintenance workers. Second of all, they ensure minimal downtime, higher revenue, more consistent operations, optimized performance, and therefore lower costs of energy.
“Because humidity sensors are vital to the operation and profitability of wind farms, it is not advisable to compromise with the quality of the sensors. Besides humidity sensors of high Danish quality, our customers are ensured strong delivery performance and customer-specific products.”Keld Reimer Hansen Key Account Manager at Senmatic
The vital role of reliable sensors
Wind farms are complex installations, and for both cost and safety reasons, they need to be monitored constantly. This necessitates the installation of multiple reliable sensors to monitor and detect possible errors or deviations in operation.