More than 130 exhibiting companies will make the CanWEA Annual Conference & Exhibition show floor their home this October. The Conference begins on October 23 and the Exhibition Hall is open on October 24 & 25. This venue brings together the entire wind energy supply chain to showcase exciting new technologies, innovations, and solutions. From wind project developers to product and service suppliers, this is the place to generate business leads.
Alex Sulkin, CEO and Founder of E.O.I Technologies Inc. is one entrepreneur who will be on-site to share how his company is innovating to help wind turbine stakeholders lower operations and maintenance costs with new blade monitoring technology. We sat down with Alex to learn how his technology fills a current needs gap in the industry.
*This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Tell us about your technology.
Alex Sulkin: We are developing a sensor technology that allows remote and real-time monitoring of both the surface conditions of the wind turbine blades and their dynamic behaviour. Blades are ageing and are also exposed to harsh weather conditions that cause damage such as cracking, erosion, delamination, and more. Our sensor remotely scans the blade as it spins to capture its surface profile. This sensor can measure the depth or shape of a crack, thickness of icing, and any other change to the blade’s surface.
The second mode of operation for our sensor is what we call a dynamic mode. It remotely captures the vibrations of a blade over time, along with other important features such as pitch angle dynamics, blade rotational pattern, blade deformation, and displacement. This is a unique capability that allows operators to identify damage that is not visible on the surface, as well as detect subtle abnormalities of wind turbine operation – before it becomes expensive.
What problem are you solving with this technology?
Alex Sulkin: New turbines are laden with hundreds of sensors that measure vibrations, oil quality, strain and so much more. Blades are an expensive component on a turbine. Wind turbines age and are constantly exposed to harsh weather conditions, so it is not a question of if issues will develop but rather when. This is where we come in. The solution for wind turbine blade inspection and monitoring has to be cost effective, easy to deploy and be able to detect and predict multiple failure modes of the blade.
How can new innovations help with turbine blade analysis?
Alex Sulkin: Today there are three typical approaches, all of which consist of a basic visual surface blade inspection. These approaches include ground telescopes, rope crews, and drone photography. These approaches don’t quantify the damage or measure its geometry in real-time. More importantly, none of these techniques capture the dynamic behaviour of the blades under real load conditions in the field. They only capture static information about the surface when the turbine is off.
Furthermore, operators have to shut down the turbine to make certain assessments. This is an expensive process. When you shut down a turbine, you lose production at a rate of thousands of dollars per hour. You are then required to pay for turbine inspection, which also costs thousands of dollars. Our technology allows wind turbines to remain operational throughout the monitoring process and to capture both dynamic and static data. And these new solutions are cost-effective enough to be deployed on every turbine on a wind farm.
What are you most looking forward to at CanWEA 2018?
Alex Sulkin: We look forward to meeting operators who are experiencing or anticipate to experience blade O&M challenges. We are excited to share more information about our technology and gauge industry interest. We are still a young company, and the last thing we want to do is operate within a vacuum. We want to develop a sensor that fills a need and solves a pain point for the industry, therefore I am looking to engage as many stakeholders as possible and receive meaningful feedback from them.
Our project is supported by Alberta Innovates and MITACS, as well as an industry partner. We have initial data from our sensor and it looks promising. Moving forward, we are looking to meet potential investors. We are raising money to take our technology to the next level, and we can’t get there without support from industry.
You can find Alex and E.O.I Technologies at our Educational Institutions & Startup Pavilion (Booth 339) in the Exhibition Hall, which is open on October 24 from 10 am to 5 pm and on October 25 from 10:30 am to 3:00 pm.
Looking for more wind energy insights?
The Canadian Wind Energy Annual Conference & Exhibition is the meeting point for all members of the wind energy industry – top business executives, technical experts, decision and policy makers, and government representatives – to come together and address the key issues facing the industry today. Join us October 23-25, 2018 at the BMO Centre in Calgary, Alberta.