Structural health monitoring for wind turbines – Condition monitoring of foundation, tower and rotor blades

for damage detection at an early stage, life cycle prognosis and the optimization of wind farm operations

Regardless of location, a sustainable reduction of operating costs with a simultaneous increase in yields is gaining more and more relevance. Therefore, it is more important than ever to detect structural damage and icing at an early stage in order to avoid severe damage. Structural health monitoring (SHM) of the foundation, tower and rotor blade and conventional condition monitoring (CMS) on the drive train are becoming increasingly important in this context.

"The advancing state of the art offers new opportunities to sustainably increase yields", says Dr Carsten Ebert, Head of Wind Energy at Wölfel. "Our intelligent algorithms are based on the latest technological approaches and form the basis for data analysis and direct real-time optimization."

Wölfel is the European market leader in the field of structural monitoring of offshore wind farms and has, over decades built up a unique core competence in signal analysis. We offer comprehensive and individual support ranging from expert advice, delivery and installation of turnkey monitoring systems all the way through to data evaluation.

We record the real stresses affecting the system with our sensor systems and then extract the truly relevant technical statements from the flood of data. The integrated early warning systems can even reduce the number of inspections required by the authorities within the framework of recurring inspections (e.g. underwater inspections with diving robots).

Based on the detailed system condition analysis, you can plan ahead, optimize the operation of your wind turbines and extend their lifetime – the operation of your wind farm becomes more efficient and economical.

Our services

  • Development and design of turnkey monitoring systems, including coordination with authorities and certification companies
  • Provision of your plants with specially developed, robust measuring equipment with direct interface to the WT control system and SCADA system
  • Data acquisition and data analysis by intelligent algorithms and experienced specialist engineers
  • Visualization of results in a web portal, including warning and alarm system
  • Reporting of monitoring results with individual level of detail – for submission to authorities, for design validation and as a basis for lifetime optimization
  • Development of concepts for periodic inspections in which the necessary scope of testing is optimized by integrating monitoring results

SHM.Foundation® – An individually configurable system for monitoring the building ground, foundation and supporting structure

In order to ensure a safe and efficient wind farm operation, comprehensive monitoring of the building ground, foundation and supporting structure is essential for every operator. To guarantee the load-bearing capacity, the approval authorities also strongly recommend a regular examination of the foundation structures – both permanently by means of monitoring and periodically as part of the recurring inspections. However, examining the structures below the water surface is often very complex, diving operations are risky and cost-intensive. By means of permanent foundation monitoring, these expensive inspections can be reduced to the bare minimum.

Professional long-term monitoring with SHM.Foundation

With SHM.Foundation, the structural behavior of wind turbines and transformer stations can be digitally recorded, tracked and evaluated. Our focus is on the detailed analysis of maximum and fatigue loads, the wind and wave loads as well as the structural condition and the resulting remaining service life. Via our web portal MIC.Foundation, you have live access to all events at any time and will receive automatic alarms if defined threshold values are exceeded.

The functions of SHM.Foundation at a glance:

  • Permanent monitoring of structural behavior and stresses
  • Creation of a "service life file" for each individual turbine
  • Preparation of the necessary documentation for the authorities for the verification of the load-bearing capacity
  • Optimization of the performance of your wind park with tailored vibration monitoring and life cycle extending operating practices
  • Adaptation of concepts for recurring inspections
  • Evaluation of new operating practices or features – such as PowerBoost or High-Wind-Ride-Trough – with regard to stress and service life consumption
  • Monitoring of irregularities when erecting load-bearing structures

Configuration of SHM.Foundation

The configuration of SHM.Foundation is specifically tailored to your project requirements: Our modular concept is available for both, the necessary hardware for data acquisition and for the software for data analysis. Based on our many years of experience, we will advise you on how to design the system to suit your individual needs. You can also benefit from the expert knowledge we have gained through our participation in the development of relevant standards and regulations.

Our monitoring systems are equipped with robust electronic components according to industrial standards. The systems are installed by our teams that are well-trained for offshore operations.

However, we do not only accompany you during design, installation and commissioning, but throughout the entire monitoring process. As part of the signal analysis, we extract the essential information, compare the recorded loads with design assumptions, calculate the lifetime consumption, prepare reports for authorities and identify optimization potentials.

Since comprehensive monitoring is particularly important for offshore wind turbines, we work with a global structural health monitoring concept for the entire wind turbine. The monitoring of the building ground, foundation and supporting structure is usually accompanied by the monitoring of the tower with the SHM.Tower® monitoring system.

Knowledge Library

Exploiting the potential of a wind farm in the best possible way – this is not only the overriding goal of manufacturers and operators, but is also essential with a view to achieving the fastest possible energy turnaround. In our white papers in the categories Increase yields, Optimize inspections and Extend service life, you can find out how you can sustainably increase the efficiency of your wind turbines.

Case Studies

Case Study "Structural Health Monitoring Offshore Wind Farm Arkona" 1.93 MB
Case Study "Structural Health Monitoring Offshore Wind Farm Arkona"

Arkona is the most efficient wind farm to date in the Baltic Sea: off the coast of the island of Rügen, 60 wind turbines are located on an area of 39 square kilometers and have a total output of 385 megawatts. An individual structural health monitoring concept developed by Wölfel is designed to ensure that the wind turbines feed into the grid as continuously and efficiently as possible, incur the lowest possible costs for operation and maintenance and meet the requirements of the authorities.

SHM.Tower® – Intelligent system for the monitoring of tower vibrations and for lifetime prognosis

Depending on the location and operating mode of a wind turbine, the vibration load – especially of the tower – varies greatly. The monitoring system SHM.Tower records these loads via integrated sensors. The recorded data is evaluated directly and compared with threshold values defined in advance. Warnings can be issued if threshold values are exceeded. Thus, WTs under excessive stress can be identified immediately and countermeasures can be initiated.

Lifetime prognosis with SHM.Tower

In order to be able to decide on the further operation of a wind turbine after the design lifetime of 20 years, the remaining lifetime must be determined as exactly as possible. In particular, critical extreme conditions must be taken into account. With SHM.Tower, the evaluation for the further operation of your wind turbine is based on the fatigue loads that have actually occurred and thus not only on mere estimates. During the entire service life, the stored and directly evaluated data provides exact information about the consumed lifetime.

Sensors and electronic components of SHM.Tower are installed in a compact casing for easy installation in the tower head of the wind turbine. In the energy self-sufficient operating mode, SHM.Tower can be integrated during construction and can thus bridge power failures of up to three months. Furthermore, the system can also be retrofitted on existing turbines.


Monitoring function

  • Measurement of vibration stress and output of warnings if threshold values are exceeded (ISO 10816-21/VDI 3834)
  • Frequency distribution of RMS values (e.g. during the year)
  • Park monitoring for the detection of heavily loaded turbines

Lifetime prognosis

  • Lifetime prognosis for each tower segment based on fatigue strength
  • Classification of loads according to operating conditions
  • Lifetime consumption trend
  • Valid statements for the further operation of your wind turbine
  • Also for retrofitting


  • Energy self-sufficient monitoring function (recording up to 3 months without energy supply)
  • Connection to the Wölfel monitoring portal MIC.Tower
  • Interface for external sensors (three-channel sensors)
  • Frequency range: 0.1 – 10 Hz
  • Measuring range: ± 2 g

Knowledge Library

Exploiting the potential of a wind farm in the best possible way – this is not only the overriding goal of manufacturers and operators, but is also essential with a view to achieving the fastest possible energy turnaround. In our white papers in the categories Increase yields, Optimize inspections and Extend service life, you can find out how you can sustainably increase the efficiency of your wind turbines.

SHM.Blade® – Intelligent system for the detection of structural damage, icing and aerodynamic imbalances on rotor blades

Rotor blades of wind turbines are exposed to extreme environmental conditions and high dynamic stresses. At the same time they have a decisive influence on the energy yield and thus on the economic efficiency of a wind turbine. Incipient damage must be detected at the earliest stage possible and distinguished from normal environmental and operational influences. Severe damage can be prevented by the repair measures, which are comparatively inexpensive at this early stage. Downtimes due to damage that is not detected or detected too late are avoided and the energy yield is increased. Periodic inspections are not sufficient for an early detection of damage. Continuous monitoring ensures a higher level of safety.


The solution from Wölfel: SHM.Blade for the detection of structural damage

SHM.Blade is a tried and tested system, certified by DNV GL, that can detect structural damage on rotor blades at an early stage. For this purpose, a reference condition is used which is determined individually for each rotor blade, fully automatically, immediately after the activation of SHM.Blade. The determination of the reference condition is a blade-specific learning phase which ensures the system's high sensitivity to damage – despite the mass and stiffness tolerances caused during production. When the learning phase is completed, the system continuously calculates condition indicators, which provide information on the current condition of the blade at any given time. By means of a two-level warning and alarm concept, the wind turbine control can react and subsequent damage can be avoided.

IDD.Blade® – Ice detection with automatic restart function

Especially at so-called "cold climate" locations further weather-related risks arise. Authorities demand that a wind turbine (WT) is stopped in case of icing to protect against ice shedding in the surrounding area. In addition, increased loads caused by icing have a significant impact on the lifetime of the WT.  The measurement of vibration behaviour has proven to be a safe and efficient method for ice detection.

With the IDD.Blade option, icing can be reliably detected.

  • Automatic ice detection
  • Automatic switch-off in case of icing
  • Automatic restart of the wind turbine when the blades are ice-free
    = Reduced risk of ice shedding  

    + Early detection of damage
    + Detection of aerodynamic imbalance

As the sensors in the rotor blades directly record the actual icing condition, the results are much more reliable than an assessment based on meteorological parameters. IDD.Blade reduces shutdown times to the times of actual icing.

Via our web portal MIC.Blade, you have live access to all events at any time and will receive automatic alarms if defined threshold values are exceeded.

SHM.Blade for the detection of aerodynamic imbalances

Nearly 50 percent of wind turbines suffer from imbalance on the rotor. This not only reduces the aerodynamic efficiency of the wind turbine and as a consequence its power output but can also lead to increased vibrations and thus a strong increase of the load on the drivetrain, blades and tower. As a result, higher noise emission and a reduction of the annual energy production can occur.

SHM.Blade helps avoid the decrease of the wind turbine’s power output and lower the number of emergency stops. The use of SHM.Blade pitch angle monitoring leads to an increased life expectancy of the structure and the drive train components.

Knowledge Library

Exploiting the potential of a wind farm in the best possible way – this is not only the overriding goal of manufacturers and operators, but is also essential with a view to achieving the fastest possible energy turnaround. In our white papers in the categories Increase yields, Optimize inspections and Extend service life, you can find out how you can sustainably increase the efficiency of your wind turbines.

Rotor blade inspection by an officially appointed and sworn expert

During production: Third Party Inspection (TPI)

Precise and reliable production of rotor blades is essential for the quality of the blades and thus for the service life and the possible energy yield of a wind turbine. Due to the high level of manual labor in the production process, the rotor blades often have defects, which can develop into serious damage during operation. According to estimates by experts, approx. 4 out of 5 damages in the field are related to the production process. As independent experts we perform inspections during blade production directly at the manufacturer’s site on behalf of the operator and prepare a complete documentation of any deviations in quality.

Our TPI concept has proven itself in practice and has already been a great support for many operators. It consists of three complementary elements:

  1. General supervision of blade production within the scope of process audits
  2. Specific supervision of blade production for specific customer projects according to our witness point concept
  3. Factory Acceptance Test: The project rotor blades are thoroughly tested from the inside and outside, including the lightning protection system and all mounting parts.

During operation: Recurrent inspection – Onshore and Offshore

During operation, the high loads acting on the rotor blades lead to damage, with the problems typically originating in the manufacturing of the blade. Therefore, recurrent inspections during operation are essential to detecting possible damage of the rotor blades as early as possible and to ensure the highest possible blade quality.

  • Recurrent inspection on the wind turbine
  • External inspections of the rotor blade
  • Internal inspections including camera inspections
  • Lightning protection measurements
  • Further inspections as required (e.g. thermography)
  • Inspection before warranty expiration (generally after five years offshore, complete inspection of the blades including lightning protection system)
  • Supervision of repairs
  • Comprehensive documentation (incl. expert reports on the rotor blade, expert report on the damage detected)

Hartmut Höhns, Package Manager Quality Assurance at WindMW:

"The cooperation between WindMW and Wölfel Engineering GmbH + Co. KG, was – beside the professional working relationship – constructive, fruitful and always in a considerate manor at times. The availability and short reaction period of inspection capacities provided by Wölfel Engineering GmbH + Co. KG to the OWF Meerwind Süd/Ost project, was remarkable."

Our services for structural monitoring (SHM/CMS) and rotor blade inspection (TPI/WKP)

We have been working in the offshore wind energy industry for several years and have comprehensive expertise in the following fields:

  • Design of lifetime monitoring systems
  • Development and installation of measuring equipment
  • Data acquisition and data analysis for specific wind farms
  • Monitoring, monitoring center and reporting
  • Finite element modeling and simulation of the load-bearing behavior of structures
  • Automated data analysis and monitoring
  • Lifetime analysis and evaluation
  • Rotor blade inspection – from Third Party Inspections (TPI) up to periodic inspections
  • Combination of monitoring, maintenance and inspection.

Our services and system solutions in the North Sea

Our services and system solutions in the Baltic Sea

Please contact us personally


We would be pleased to support you in solving your problem concerning "Wind turbine vibrations" and advise you on questions regarding our system and service offerings in the areas of structural health monitoring, vibration reduction, sound and noise as well as structural design.

Dr.-Ing. Georg Enß

+49 40 524715262

Timo Klaas

+49 931 49708765

Dipl.-Ing. Bernd Wölfel