ETI invests £15.5m in turbine blades

23 January 2013
By Lorna Sharpe
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Future turbine blades may be twice as long as today’s

Future turbine blades may be twice as long as today’s

Isle of Wight firm Blade Dynamics has secured a £15.5m investment from the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) to develop manufacturing technologies for the extra-long blades that will be needed on the next generation of offshore wind turbines.

The firm’s engineers will design a blade up to 100m long, suitable for future 8-10MW turbines, and build a reduced-scale demonstrator at around 85m that can be fitted to an existing turbine for testing.

Unusually, Blade Dynamics incorporates carbon fibre in its structures instead of glass fibre. Senior technical manager David Cripps said that using carbon adds strength, so blades can be made lighter for their size.

“Lighter blades also mean less load on the rest of the turbine, hence potentially reducing the cost and certainly the wear and tear on driveshafts, gearboxes, towers and foundations,” he added.

Perhaps more significant, though, is a design and manufacturing process that builds up the blades from smaller composite mouldings, avoiding what Cripps called the “astronomically expensive” tooling costs of building such a large blade in one piece.

Smaller pieces can also be produced much more accurately and with higher quality, dramatically improving their reliability, which is crucial for offshore installations.

Moreover, the parts can be made by an established supply base of composite moulding companies serving other industries and easily transported, so the blades can be assembled where they are needed.

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