In September this year, blade repair and inspection specialist, Altitec, announced a partnership with a leading manufacturer of on- and offshore wind turbines, to provide end of warranty (EOW) blade inspections and repairs in the UK and Australia, thereby expanding the company’s global presence. Under the terms of the contract, Altitec will provide EOW inspections at 100 sites throughout the UK, in addition to carrying out further EOW blade repairs in Victoria, Australia,.
Blade damage is the most common cause of downtime across the wind energy sector, according to a recent report from renewable energy insurer, GCube, and EOW inspections and repairs are an essential part of ensuring long-term operational performance. The end of the warranty period is a crucial phase for both manufacturer and project owner, since it marks a transition in where responsibility lies for technical issues experienced on site.
REM talked to Altitec’s Managing Director, Tom Dyffort, to find out more.
Tell me about Altitec and what it does
Altitec is a wind turbine rotor blade access and repair specialist. Our team of more than 30 blade technicians provide inspection and repair services to wind farm owners and managers all over the world. We also run certification courses on blade repair and maintenance, and are an exclusive supplier of turbine inspection equipment, including the personal powered rope ascender ActSafe, and inspection platforms from Käufer.
Why is blade damage the most common cause of turbine downtime and what can be done to overcome this?
Blades are the most exposed part of the turbine, so they take quite a beating. They are under the most stress from the wind, as well as other elements, for instance the fibre glass elements of the blade can be damaged by exposure to UV and water ingress.
Key to reducing down time is a regular inspection schedule. After two years of operation the potential for damage to a turbine blade is significantly higher than at installation, so regular inspections mean repairs are likely to be minor and downtime minimised. At Altitec we also use technology to reduce down time. This includes conducting initial inspections with aerial drones, and using powered rope ascenders and inspection platforms to make blade access more efficient.
What do EOW blade inspections and repairs involve?
End of warranty (EOW) inspections are essential to ensure a smooth transition of responsibility for the inspection and repair of the turbines from the manufacturer to the project owner. Our inspection allows owners to have any faults Altitec identifies repaired under warranty before the life time responsibility for the turbines transfers to the owner. By managing faults and making repairs at the end of warranty stage Altitec helps our clients avoid downtime and associated financial losses later in the project lifecycle.
What can you offer in this area that other companies can’t?
Altitec is a passionate and committed team, from our onsite blade technicians to our office staff, many with a blade tech background, who provide administrative support. We have an unrivalled industry experience based on of long-standing commercial agreements with major manufacturers and asset owners. Our broad expertise in turbine blade repair, is backed up by our status as a provider training and technology.
We understand our clients’ need to reduce downtime and the associated losses, so we make sure we repair blades efficiently and effectively through use of aerial drones and powered ascenders on every site.
As I mentioned we also provide training courses on blade repair and maintenance for anyone from owners and operators wanting to understand the basics of the process, to future blade techs wanting to develop their skills and make it their career. By training and developing more highly-skilled technicians, our monthly Academy courses, which aim to train up to 150 blade techs each year, are another example of how we differentiate ourselves to our clients.
Where are your main global markets?
We have offices across Europe, in London, Berlin, Dublin and Tallin, from where we service onshore and offshore farms across the continent. Our key markets are Germany, UK, the North Sea, and the Baltic sea. We also conduct work for clients in South Africa, where we have an office, and as we look to expand globally we are also working on projects in Australia and other emerging markets.
How would you describe the UK wind market at the moment? How does it compare to others around the world?
The UK wind market is good for Altitec and is up there in terms of importance with our markets across Europe. With a growing number of projects entering long-term operational service and needing inspection and repair support, the European market continues to experience strong growth.
In so far as our services reflect the strength of wind markets around the world, we have 10 teams working on farms onshore, 4 teams off-shore in UK waters, 2 teams in Europe, 1 team in Australia, 2 teams in South Africa.
How would you describe the current Australian (Turnbull) government’s attitude to wind and renewable energy in general at present?
Australia, like many other countries, has set targets for the share of renewables in the energy mix. In Australia, these are set at state and national level. As the nation increases its use of renewable energy sources to meet these targets, we would expect wind turbines to make up a good share of these sources. Under these circumstances, demand for technical services like Altitec’s will increase.
How important was this current blade inspection contract to Altitec?
Altitec is continues to pursue international growth opportunities, in a market climate we view positively. Our first foray into Australia is a demonstration of this. We were hired for the critical end of warranty inspections involved in this contract because we are a trusted global provider of inspection and repair services.
How do you see Altitec progressing over the next few years? What are your plans for expansion and growth?
We expect the number of installed wind turbines to continue to grow globally. And we recognise that minimising down time due to blade damage will be crucial to helping operators reduce running costs and achieve profit. As such, our ability to reduce down time through the use of technologies like aerial drones and powered access aids will make us an attractive partner to owners and operators. As such Altitec would hope to become a preferred supplier for many wind farm owners and operators. To manage this demand and help us to grow we continue to invest in training to grow our teams of blade repair technicians
Altitec is an independently operated specialist rope access blade inspection and repair business, headquartered in London and Berlin. Since 2010, Altitec technicians have inspected over 3,000 blades, 1000 turbines, throughout the UK, Europe and within key emerging markets further afield. The firm provides a full range of blade inspection, repair and maintenance services, as well as an established, industry certified training programme, known as The Altitec Academy. Altitec holds exclusive UK distribution rights for the Actsafe Ascender.