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Sterblue helps deliver ESB’s ambition for a cleaner future

  • Sterblue awarded long term contract for independent inspections of turbine blades on its 26 wind farms
  • French start-up combines drone technology and artificial intelligence
  • Superior inspections mean less down-time for wind farms 
  • Initial links forged through Sterblue’s participation in ESB co-founded Free Electrons accelerator programme

4 May 2020

Two years after meeting Sterblue for the first time as part of the Free Electrons Programme, ESB is proud to announce that the French startup has been awarded a long-term contract to complete independent inspections of turbine blades on its wind farms. The decision was taken following numerous positive trials and an extensive competitive tendering procedure. The contract represents a highly successful outcome for the global Free Electrons accelerator programme.

Sterblue builds a platform for automatic inspection of industrial assets using off-the-shelf drones and artificial intelligence. From data capture to data analysis, the company covers the whole inspection process in one streamlined interface. This is a far superior method when compared to flying a drone manually and traditional inspections often carried out with binoculars and cameras. The inspections can also be undertaken throughout the Covid-19 pandemic in line with social distancing requirements. 

ESB has a growing portfolio of 26 onshore wind farms across Ireland and the UK. By performing enhanced inspections, the energy utility can reduce down-time for wind turbines and therefore generate clean energy more efficiently. The use of Sterblue’s services results in a cost saving for ESB and, just as importantly, it helps the environment.

The awarding of the contract to this innovative startup is particularly pleasing for ESB, as Sterblue participated at the Free Electrons programme - a partnership of ten top energy utilities from across the globe, including ESB. Sterblue presented initially at Free Electrons in 2018 and succeeded in winning a place on the accelerator programme for startups working in the energy sector.

“We were just a small start-up of about six or seven people at that time. Free Electrons gave us the confidence to go into production.” Vincent Lecrubier, CTO at Sterblue 

But this experience was only the beginning of a relationship that would grow over the years. Not only could Sterblue gather relevant feedback on the product directly from potential customers, but it also had the opportunity to perform a pilot project with ESB, with 15 wind turbines inspected in Wales by 2018.

“We’re extremely happy to continue our long-term partnership with ESB. The collaborative mindset has been part of ESB’s DNA since the beginning of our relationship and that has been really helpful to move forward.” Geoffrey Vancassel, CEO at Sterblue

Jerry O’Sullivan, ESB Deputy Chief Executive, says that Sterblue’s solution to inspect wind turbines is entirely in line with ESB’s Brighter Future strategy for 2030: 

“Sterblue’s innovative, safe, fast and accurate solution helps to optimise running time of each wind turbine in our portfolio, meaning that they can generate more clean electricity for the communities we serve. It is of course particularly pleasing that our initial connection with Sterblue was forged through their participation in the Free Electrons programme.”

Today, Sterblue has offices in France, Portugal and the US and serves more than 25 customers throughout 16 different countries. Having an extensive network of drone pilots and experts worldwide and a solution that is easy to deploy, Sterblue can perform inspections anywhere in Ireland and the UK with great responsiveness.  

Sterblue and ESB are now looking forward to strengthening their relationship and exploring further opportunities, as the capabilities of the French startup are far from being limited to wind turbine inspections. Sterblue envisions becoming the central platform for infrastructure inspections and has already deployed multiple projects for distribution and transmission grid operators worldwide.