Whilst 2012 ended on a high for solar power, with a number of innovative new technologies being developed across the globe, there was also plenty to cheer about for commercial electricity providers who rely on wind power. Studies found that the world could meet (and indeed, surpass) it’s energy demands solely using wind power, and that seems to have spurred on some activity right here in the UK energy market.
The Government-backed Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) has hired British root company Blade Dynamics to create record-breaking blades for new off-shore wind turbines.
Why record-breaking? The current blades on most wind-farms max out at around 75m in size – however Blade Dynamics new prototypes will be produced as a series of 80-100m in length, making them the world’s longest
Set to be put into production in late 2014, the new UK-produced blades will be constructed out of high-tensile carbon fibre – rather than the conventional glass fibre that is the industry standard. This will make them around 40% lighter than a similarly-sized ‘standard’ blade – which translates into a significant weight and cost saving for a turbine system or wind farm, something that could cut the cost of commercial electricity in the UK if they prove a success.
The construction of the blades is also more efficient. Blade Dynamics say that their manufacturing process will create the blades from smaller, more easily manufactured pieces – something that will again cut costs when compared to the industry standard process of using huge full-length moulds.
Blade Dynamics’ senior technical manager David Cripps said: “Our driver is to make the generation of electricity through offshore wind both more reliable and more economical.
“We believe longer, low-weight blades to be a key part of the solution, but for such blades to be most effective we need to design their construction differently.”
The ETI will also be working with Blade Dynamics to create more efficient smaller blades for existing turbines and wind farms, working in tandem with the 100m blade prototypes to create new designs to work with 6-10mw turbines.
“Offshore wind has the potential to be a much larger contributor to the UK energy system if today’s costs can be significantly reduced,” says ETI offshore wind project manager Paul Trinick.
“Investing in this project to develop larger, more efficient blades is a key step for the whole industry in paving the way for more efficient turbines, which will in turn help bring the costs of generating electricity down.”