Thermal imaging is a powerful and flexible predictive maintenance tool that allows the non-contact inspection of live electrical and mechanical systems.
This benefit can only be realised however if personal safety is assured and for this purpose industry is increasingly turning to IRISS infrared window technology. And one sector where its take-up is growing significantly is renewable energy and, in particular, wind power generation.
IRISS infrared windows are infrared data collection points that are instrumental in assuring the reliability of critical systems in harsh environments. Made from impact resistant polymer, they do not degrade in UV light. The range is also unique in its ability to allow UV and visual inspection as well as imaging in the three infrared spectrums. All IRISS products carry an unconditional lifetime warranty and UL, Lloyds, ABS and IEEE certification; non-custom IRISS windows also conform to CSA standards.
A modern wind turbine has a typical service life of around twenty years, during which it will be working for up to 120,000 hours. As with any system, maintenance needs and costs increase with age and parts that wear out the quickest are inevitably the rotor blades and gearboxes, estimated to represent up to 20% of the turbine’s total cost.
In reality all manner of electrical or mechanical faults can occur to compromise or halt power generation or indeed become a safety issue and endanger life. A loose or broken electrical connection can spark and ignite nearby rubber cable lining, plastic covers and other flammable materials. Fires can also be the result of component failure, a bearing running dry, insufficient lubrication, ineffective cooling systems or a brake overheating.
With an efficient preventative maintenance programme in place however many of these issues can be detected in their infancy. As these faults are generally evidenced by an abnormal thermal profile, thermal imaging is becoming the method of choice for many maintenance professionals serving the renewable energy sector.
The effectiveness of thermal imaging is compromised however if the technology cannot be applied to a live system and this is why IRISS window technology is so important. It allows the thermographer to conduct uninterrupted inspection and obtain meaningful thermal data on the health of systems.
IRISS windows eliminate virtually all risk associated with arc flash which can cause significant burns and even fatal injury. Arc flash is often the consequence of opening an electrical panel and exposing the housed electrical system to humidity and a sudden change in temperature. Indeed, the harsher the environment the greater to risk.
As it is made from polymer, an IRISS infrared window can be cut to any size. So, for example, it can be supplied as an oblong pane to give the thermal imaging camera an unobstructed view of a bus bar. This isn’t possible with a crystal window whose fragility limits its size and shape to a maximum four inch round. Furthermore, unlike crystal, IRISS polymer won’t shatter.
Shape is another IRISS benefit. As well as square and oblong windows, the company can also supply its infrared windows in curved formats. This is especially valuable for mechanical system inspection as arched or rainbow windows can ‘wrap around’ bearings, pumps, motors and turbines. They can also be incorporated into mechanical guarding allowing the safe inspection of working systems.
The Renewable Energy Directive has a target for the UK to obtain 15% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. To achieve that, ongoing investment is being complemented by robust predictive maintenance to ensure ageing systems are running optimally.
IRISS technology is very much part of this trend. On the back of successful installations, both in wind power and other renewable generation projects across the world, the company is now actively involved in several UK projects. It is also a member of the EEEGR – a non-profit, business-led group committed to the sustained development of the energy sector in The East of England.
Tags: IRISS, Panel Building News, e-lec.org