Danish industrial concern NKT's subsidiary NKT Photonics has successfully tested a laser-based technology that can significantly reduce wear on the gear train of wind turbines and also improve output by at least 5%. Although expensive now [approx. DKK 500,000 (approx. USD 100,000) per wind turbine], the cost of installing the system is expected to fall as the technology matures, writes financial daily newspaper Børsen.
The technology, which has been developed by a British company and Risø (Danish National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy), has the ability in combination with a NKT Photonics laser to "see" the wind and detect high wind strengths that cause damage, before it reaches the wind turbine. The blades can then be set in free spin to avoid causing wear to the gear train. The same technology can also be used to extract more energy from the wind under productive conditions.
NKT Photonics managing director Jakob Dahlgren Skov told Børsen that the system has been tested in locations including offshore installations in the North Sea, and the technology works.
"Now we will enter agreements with wind turbine manufacturers that will finalise the testing," says the director, without naming the manufacturers who have made a deal with NKT Photonics.
The laser technology employed by NKT Photonics, called LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), is already
used in the wind energy industry to assess the suitability of sites for locating wind farms by mapping wind patterns at various heights.
If the technology becomes economically viable to install in wind turbines, it will enable material and cost savings in the construction of these machines, which today are overdimensioned precisely because of the currently unavoidable wear from high winds.