Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Mechanical Engineering


Mechanical Engineering


College of Engineering


Patrick Lemieux

Advisor Department

Mechanical Engineering

Advisor College

College of Engineering


Condition monitoring systems are critical for autonomous detection of damage when operating remote wind turbines. These systems continually monitor the turbine’s operating parameters and detect damage before the turbine fails. Although common in utility-scale turbines, these systems are mostly undeveloped in distributed, small-scale turbines due to their high cost and need for specialized equipment. The Cal Poly Wind Power Research Center is developing a low-cost, modular solution known as the LifeLine system. The previous version contained monitoring equipment, but lacked decision-making capabilities.

The present work builds on the LifeLine by developing software-based detection of blade damage. Detection is done by monitoring of tower vibrations, rotor speed, and generator power output. First, testing is completed to inform algorithm design: the tower vibrational response is recorded, and blade damage is simulated by adding a mass imbalance to one blade. From these results, several algorithms are developed, and their performance is analyzed in a cross-validation study. The time-series method known as the Nonlinear State Estimation Technique and Sequential Probability Ratio Test (NSET+SPRT) is implemented first. This algorithm is highly successful, with a 93.3% rate of correct damage detection; however, it occasionally raises false alarms during normal operation. A custom-built algorithm known as the Adaptive Fast Fourier Transform (AFFT) is also built; its strength lies in its elimination of false alarms. The final system utilizes a joint monitoring approach, combining the benefits of the NSET+SPRT and AFFT. The final algorithm is successful, correctly categorizing 95.5% of data when operating above 120RPM, and raising no false alarms in normal operation. This version is then implemented for live monitoring on the Cal Poly Wind Turbine, allowing for robust and autonomous detection of blade damage.