Carbon-glass hybrid rotor blades will come to dominate the global wind market in the coming decade as supersize next-generation models grow longer and cost continues to need to be squeezed out if OEMs are to meet industry targets of further lowering the sector’s levellised cost of energy (LCOE), new research from IntelStor has predicted.

Projections by the analyst point to most onshore blade-sets being on track to be under $6,000/metre of rotor diameter by 2025 and those for offshore heading for $10,000/metre, yet highlight that engineering market-competitive ultralong designs for the fast-approaching future will call for 45% out the current price of hybrid carbon-glass designs to be carved out.

“Material use and manufacturing process around the world has long favoured glass using a hand layup process. While the process was optimised for cost and a modest amount of automation was introduced on some sub-components, the advent of longer blade lengths for turbines to be sited in lower wind speed regimes has necessitated moving to other technologies,” said Intelstor CEO Philip Totaro

“As onshore wind turbines continue to scale up in size [to lower LCOE], the need for new innovations on material use and manufacturing technique abounds.

“The advent of the carbon-glass hybrid blade is upon us and the technology is likely to dominate many onshore designs which are 7MW-plus from now on along with carbon pultruded rods [the current technology convention].”

For offshore blades, a key driver in the upscaling of sea-based turbines from 3MW to 15MW-plus nameplates, the cost-reduction ethos has not been as determinant, as more generous project capital budgets have allowed for pricier designs based on pultrusion, glass infusion and first-generation carbon-glass hybrid concepts.

“Similar to the onshore market, [offshore] glass blades with a hand layup process [have] largely dominated the earliest days of the market,” said Totoro.

“The advent of carbon prepreg [pre-impregnated with resin] blades onshore … easily made their way to offshore applications where the lifting weight needed to be considered due to the size and scale of crane vessels of the era,” he said.

“The new era of 10MW plus wind turbines is necessitating the advent of the carbon-glass hybrid, with this technology along with the carbon pultrusion technique [set] to largely dominate the market globally moving forward.”

But Totaro added that as with onshore blades, the cost of the offshore carbon-glass hybrid models “is still exceeding the other technologies at this stage” and will need to be trimmed down potentially as low as $3,000/metre of rotor diameter to be keenly competitive in a market where costs are cratering.

Worldwide wind power installations are seen reaching a record 78GW this year, up from 71.3GW in 2020, the Global Wind Energy Council said in its latest market outlook, forecasting the sector could have total 1TW in operation by 2024.