On analytical tools for assessing the raindrop erosion of wind turbine blades

Pugh, K. and Nash, J. and Reaburn, G. and Stack, M.M. (2021) On analytical tools for assessing the raindrop erosion of wind turbine blades. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 137. 110611. ISSN 1879-0690 (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2020.110611)

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In renewable energy, wind capture has been expanding to now have one of the largest presences in the global green energy sector. With the drive to expand low carbon technologies; maintenance of the engineering components of wind turbines is crucial and in particular the monitoring of the leading edge of turbine blades which experience high impact velocities in service. Surface changes due to rain drop erosion can reduce energy conversion due to a loss of aerodynamic efficiency. This is one of the key areas of interest, as even small aerodynamic changes can lead to 2–3% loss in annual energy. Inspection methodologies of turbine blades are basic, involving an observation and high-definition photographs of the damage. Recent studies on the rain erosion of turbine blade materials show that this standard procedure often fails to characterise the loss of aerodynamic efficiency in these turbine blades in. With the industry moving in the direction of leading-edge profile samples, there is a consensus that whirling arm type test rigs are the most applicable testing regimes. Presently there is little overlap in the analysis used in different studies. This review considers various techniques which may be used to inspect and characterise the materials performance following exposure to rain drop erosion. These techniques will be evaluated based on their potential use within the industry. Findings conclude that a combination of techniques is optimal to analyse surface defects and that subsurface analysis is an important factor that must be considered in any investigation of long-term blade integrity.