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UK energy tech institute and wind firm to develop world’s longest turbine blades

ETI invests in GBP 15.5m in low-weight cost saving turbine blade design with Blade Dynamics

UK firm Blade Dynamics will construct blades for the ETI of up to 100m in length

The UK’s Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) is investing GBP 15.5m with a wind firm to build the world’s largest wind turbine blades. The ETI has appointed UK firm Blade Dynamics to develop and demonstrate the technologies for constructing blades up to 100m long - the world’s longest built to date.

As part of the GBP 15.5m project the ETI will become an equity investor in the Isle of Wight-based blade developer – helping with technology development and allowing the company to grow its workforce by up to a third in the short to medium term.

This is the second time in 12 months that the ETI has undertaken an investment in a UK SME developing innovative new technologies.

Blade Dynamics will construct blades for the ETI between 80m to 100m in length, incorporating carbon fibre rather than conventional fibre glass. This compares with blades now deployed offshore of between 60m to 75m in length.

The ETI said the project, which it has commissioned and funded, will be delivered using Blade Dynamics’ innovative design and manufacturing processes that construct blades through the assembly of smaller, more accurate and easily manufactured component pieces, rather than from extremely large and expensive full-length mouldings.

The project will see prototype blades manufactured, and in a position to be put into production by late 2014. Structural testing for the first blade is then expected to be carried out at a UK test facility. The blades will weigh up to 40 per cent less than conventional glass-fibre blades, enabling significant weight and cost savings to be achieved throughout the rest of the turbine system. The design will also help to reduce the cost of the energy produced.

The intended end use for the blade technology is on the next generation of large offshore wind turbines currently under development with a capacity of 8 to 10MW. This compares with the 5 to 6MW capacity turbines currently deployed offshore.

Paul Trinick, offshore wind project manager at the ETI, said: “Offshore wind has the potential to be a much larger contributor to the UK energy system if today’s costs can be significantly reduced. 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.

David Cripps, senior technical manager, from Blade Dynamics, added: “We have worked hard on the design of this blade technology for a number of years now. Financial backing from the ETI for this project allows deployment on ultra-large turbines far sooner than would otherwise have been possible and as a result of this project we will be hiring new engineers and technologists to make this possible. 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 news from the ETI follows German firm Siemens Energy beginning field tests on its record-breaking 154m blades for offshore wind turbines last October.