The degradation of onshore, reinforced-concrete wind turbine foundations is usually assessed via above-ground inspections, or through lengthy excavation campaigns that suspend wind power generation. Foundation cracks can and do occur below ground level, and while sustained measurements of crack behaviour could be used to quantify the risk of water ingress and reinforcement corrosion, these cracks have not yet been monitored during turbine operation. Here, we outline the design, fabrication and field installation of subterranean fibre-optic sensors for monitoring the opening and lateral displacements of foundation cracks during wind turbine operation. We detail methods for in situ sensor characterisation, verify sensor responses against theoretical tower strains derived from wind speed data, and then show that measured crack displacements correlate with monitored tower strains. Our results show that foundation crack opening displacements respond linearly to tower strain and do not change by more than ±5 μ m. Lateral crack displacements were found to be negligible. We anticipate that the work outlined here will provide a starting point for real-time, long-term and dynamic analyses of crack displacements in future. Our findings could furthermore inform the development of cost-effective monitoring systems for ageing wind turbine foundations.
Keywords: concrete cracks; displacement sensors; fiber Bragg gratings; fiber optic sensing; field trial; life extension; structural health monitoring.