Researchers at the UPC’s Terrassa Campus create an innovative system that will save wind power firms €15 million a year
The technology, dubbed iTesTiT, is based on five Catalan patents and has led to the formation of a spin-off. iTesTiT is the first fault prediction system that can be used to analyze all the operating variables of a wind turbine.
Every year major wind power companies in Europe lose €800 million due to faults in mechanical, electrical and electronic systems in their wind turbines. The Motion Control and Industrial Applications (MCIA) research group of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya. Barcelona Tech (UPC) has created a system that delivers greater efficiency and offers a highly reliable means of predicting how wind turbines are likely to fail. The system, known as iTesTiT, was recognized as the “best business idea” in the latest edition of the ACC1Ó Valortec competition. In addition to the wind power sector, the innovative system can be applied in the aeronautical industry and in the production of electric and hybrid cars.
A wind turbine is an extremely complex device. To operate properly and produce energy efficiently, its components must function with a high degree of precision. Last year the four leading companies in the sector in Europe (Vestas, Gamesa, Ecotecnia and Alstom Wind) lost nearly €800 million as a result of unplanned shutdowns for maintenance work and due to electrical, mechanical and electronic faults in their wind turbines. Losses in Spain are estimated at €76 million.
Investigators with the MCIA research group at the UPC’s Terrassa Campus have created iTesTiT, a program that can reliably predict when and how wind turbine components are likely to fail. The system analyzes the electric motor, gears, yaw system, temperature control system, lubricator, protective devices, transformer, multiplier, wiring, electrical protection devices for mechanical, hydraulic and electronic components, and the entire power electronic system with which these components operate. Each component is analyzed by means of signal processing, pattern extraction, and data processing. Engineers can use the final diagnosis generated by the system to predict the future behavior of mechatronic systems.
iTesTiT is more effective than existing systems on the market, which analyze only vibrations and currents. The program created by the MCIA research group is the only one in the world that works with all the variables that can affect wind turbine operation.
Potential to save €15 million a year
Specifically, the iTesTiT technology detects faults in electrical systems, the yaw system, generator, multiplier, and drive chain. These components account for up to 40% of all faults that occur in wind turbines. In Spain alone, the system created by the UPC’s MCIA could save the leading companies in the sector €15 million a year.New business model for power
Five patents have been registered for the iTesTiT system, which will be placed on the market through a spin-off (technology-based enterprise) set up for this purpose. The UPC has a stake in the new company, which operates under the same name as the technology. The Manresa Technology Center (CTM) is responsible for managing and defining the commercial and legal aspects of the project.
According to Jordi Cusidó, one of the creators of the system, “the business model of major companies in the wind power sector is undergoing a significant change. They’ve gone from selling equipment to clients to selling a power generation guarantee. The new productivity-based model means shutdowns due to technical faults and for wind turbine maintenance are of critical strategic importance. Our business opportunity is based precisely on this shift,” says Cusidó.
The creators of iTesTiT hope to achieve a 5% market share in the wind power sector with the technology, for which they were awarded a prize for the best business idea in the latest edition of the ACC1Ó Valortec competition, sponsored by the Catalan government.
Aeronautics and automotive applications
Although iTesTiT is designed specifically for wind turbines, the software can also be applied in the field of aeronautics, given that new technologies used in the design and construction of aircraft involve a much greater presence of electricity in their components. According to the creators of iTesTiT, it is essential for major aircraft manufacturers to have a reliable fault detection system that ensures proper operation of all aircraft engineering systems. The automotive industry will also be able to take advantage of this innovative system in the production of electric and hybrid vehicles.