UK aims for 100-metre blades

British rotor technology pioneer Blade Dynamics has been hired by the UK government-backed Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) to develop blades up to 100 metres long for the coming generation of 8-10MW wind turbines.

Through the £15.5m ($24.9m) project, the Isle of Wight-based company will fabricate a series of blades 80-100 metres in length that use ultra-stiff carbon-fibre rather than conventional fibre-glass in their construction.

The prototype blades – slated to be put into production by late-2014 – would be the world’s longest, outstripping current record-holder Siemens’ 75-metre B75 blade.

Blade Dynamics’ blade designs employ an innovative design and manufacturing process that constructs them through the assembly of smaller, more easily manufactured component pieces, rather than from extremely large full-length mouldings.

The company calculates its new blades will weigh up to 40% less than conventional glass-fibre blades of the same length, translating into significant weight and cost savings for an overall turbine system, and knock-on benefits in cutting the cost of the produced energy.

Blade Dynamics' senior technical manager David Cripps adds: “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 first stage of the ETI project will involve devising a blade design in collaboration with a major turbine maker, based on Blade Dynamics’ current lightweight 49-metre blades.

This will be followed by engineering a manufacturing process for blades to fit a 6MW turbine, while in tandem developing concepts for blades for future 8-10MW turbines.

Final project stages will test and verify the prototype blade performance against the predicted performance models.

“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.”