GIGAN: An innovative solution to improve the technical and financial sustainability of wind turbines

GIGAN: An innovative solution to improve the technical and financial sustainability of wind turbines

26 Jan 2024

The GIGAN project was launched in September 2020 within the framework of European fundings for SMEs, granted by the Eurostars program, with the aim of designing a new hardware-software solution capable of addressing the operation and maintenance challenges that wind farms are facing today in scenarios of life extension and performance improvement. Eurostars is a Eureka programme and part of the European Partnership on Innovative SMEs. The partnership is co-funded by the European Union through Horizon Europe.

This R&D project was led by Nabla Wind Hub together with Fibersail, a Portuguese company specialized in the development of fiber optic technologies for wind farm solutions; and evaluated and supported by Eureka, a public network for international cooperation in R&D and innovation, present in over 45 countries, and CDTI, the innovation agency under the Ministry of Science and Innovation of Spain.

The primary mission of the GIGAN project was to extend the lifetime of wind turbines beyond their certified life of 20 years, while reducing maintenance costs and improving the economic profitability of wind energy, through a unique combination of fiber optic sensor technology and advanced wind farm analysis.

As such, the GIGAN solution consists of fiber optic shape sensors installed along the wind turbine blades designed to accurately capture deflections that can be translated into wind conditions. Then, using real-time load simulations on specific aeroelastic models, GIGAN translates those wind conditions into loads, and determines the remaining lifetime of each component.

This innovative system addresses recurring weaknesses in wind turbines, such as structural fatigue of major components, including gearboxes and the main shaft. But it goes beyond simply monitoring component fatigue. It also captures site-specific wind conditions in greater detail than conventional anemometers and correlates them with loads, allowing additional operating hours to be safely unlocked.

Moreover, it provides predictive information on the lifespan of major components, which helps to plan inspections, tailor protocols, and preventive actions more efficiently, allowing saves on maintenance costs.

This R&D solution is based on a P90 full life analysis with an maximum uncertainty of 10%, that guarantees reliable and accurate results, compliant with IEC61400-28. The system constantly monitors the remaining life consumption of each component while operating the wind turbine, and allows optimizing key parameters such as pitch angle, V-in V-out and alignment.

At Nabla Wind Hub we are committed to innovation and continuous improvement in the wind energy sector, and we expect the GIGAN project to contribute to the transition to cleaner and more sustainable energy by extending the useful life of wind turbines and optimizing their operation.

The GIGAN project concluded at the end of 2022 and will soon be published on the portal of the Ministry of Innovation and Science of Spain, having successfully met the challenge set.