As the UK continues its rapid expansion of offshore wind, operations and maintenance (O&M) costs will increase drastically if action is not taken. Therefore, it is a priority for the sector to reduce the cost of O&M – everything from building the largest blades to inspecting the smallest bolts.
UK-based Smart Component Technologies (SCT) is looking to break into the offshore wind sector with its innovative remote condition monitoring technology for bolted assets. With its origins in the rail industry, SCT has worked with major industry partners including Network Rail, High Speed 2 and London Underground to develop and commercialise bolt monitoring solutions within the industry.
SCT’s platform technology is the Smart Washer, a wireless sensor node for the local and remote monitoring of a bolted joint. The technology allows technicians to monitor a joint’s clamp force, using a patented sensor technology that is 40% thinner than traditional load monitoring technologies (e.g. load cells).
SCT recently completed an Innovate UK-funded study to assess the technical and commercial feasibility of applying its Smart Washer technology to the offshore wind industry. The results of this study highlighted the vast potential for SCT to diversify into the sector.
The technology has the potential to reduce O&M costs by 15%, eliminate the need for bolting inspection and therefore, reduce the scheduled downtime of a turbine and lower the risk to personnel by reducing manned surface vessel trips for inspection. Entering the offshore wind sector could see increased revenue for SCT, as well as creating approximately 50 new jobs in the manufacturing process. The commercialisation of the Smart Washer technology could also create significantly more jobs throughout the SCT supply chain.
Offshore Wind Innovation Hub support
SCT responded to GE Renewable Energy’s Robotics Innovation Challenge – looking for a novel approach to bolt inspection and repair – through the Offshore Wind Innovation eXchange (OWiX), part of the Offshore Wind Innovation Hub (OWIH). OWiX works closely with the offshore wind industry to identify high priority challenges that can be taken to other sectors for UK companies to solve. SCT pitched its novel solution to GE Renewable Energy. Although unsuccessful in this bid, they joined forces with the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, who partnered with them in a further grant application and signposted them towards the Offshore Wind Growth Partnership. (OWGP).
Offshore Wind Growth Partnership support
SCT is one of seven UK companies to successfully secure grant funding through the Offshore Wind Growth Partnership’s (OWGP) Pilot Funding Competition. The OWGP is a long-term business transformation programme established as part of the Offshore Wind Sector Deal to support UK companies to grow and develop in the supply chain.
SCT will receive direct support from the OWGP to fund a project investigating remote monitoring of critical fasteners for enhanced performance, improved safety and ultimately reduced offshore wind O&M costs. The OWGP’s support for this project will significantly accelerate SCT’s commercialisation strategy for the offshore wind sector, reducing the time to market from four years to 15 months.