Wind is now the fastest growing energy source in the world. One reason for this increase is that the cost of wind energy has dropped – and continues to drop – dramatically, making it more competitive each year. Wind is now cheaper than coal, second only to natural gas. The industry has continued to stabilize and mature, meaning wind can no longer be considered an “alternative” energy source, but rather an essential part of the country and the world’s renewable energy resources.
The US Department of Energy has set a goal that by 2030, 20% of US electricity will be derived from wind energy, up from 4.7% in 2015. It’s an ambitious target, but well within reach given the current rate of turbine installation and innovation. To encourage the growth of this industry, the US recently extended the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) by five years, thereby creating unprecedented market stability. Through the middle of 2016, there were 12.5 GW of wind power capacity under construction, with another 5.8 GW in advanced stages of development.
The technology used to manufacture wind turbine blades has greatly evolved over the past two decades. Early blade building techniques were adapted from the boat building industry, using processes that were high in labor costs and prone to inconsistencies and defects. Processes used to make blades today seek to minimize cycle time, reducing both cost and the probability of defects.
Another industry trend is a move toward larger turbines with longer blades. Longer blades produce more energy, which drives energy costs down even further. However, a 47m blade for a 3-MW turbine weighs almost 30,000 lb. Even longer, heavier blades – up to 80m – are being used in offshore wind turbines.
There are two methods for creating longer blades. One involves increasing stiffness by designing a blade with a greater cross section to increase the moment of inertia. The second approach is to change the materials used in the blade’s manufacture to increase flexural stiffness. Wind blades are made from glass fiber, carbon fiber (in some blades), resin matrix, foam core, balsa core, adhesive, and coating. As the wind energy market grows and blade sizes continue to increase, wind farm developers will need to employ new composite materials to help meet these needs.
The composites industry is responding to this demand with a wide variety of fibers, resin, adhesives, and core materials designed to optimize blade manufacture and efficiency. These innovations help manufacturers find composite material options that meet strength, stiffness, and durability requirements, but at a reduced weight. New technology developments in fiber reinforcements, resin systems, and production concepts will continue to drive wind energy to lower the cost of energy levels in the future.
Currently, the wind energy market employs more composite materials than most other industries, including the aerospace, automotive, and marine sectors. As the market matures and stabilizes, this is a trend that is sure to continue, and MVP will be there to provide composite solutions that meet the requirements for the ever growing wind energy industry.
Magnum Venus Products (MVP) is the premier manufacturer of composite application equipment. MVP products consist of pumping systems, spray guns, filament winding systems, and much more. MVP serves a multitude of manufacturers in a variety of industries such as automotive, aerospace, transportation, marine, railway, oil & gas, and, of course, wind turbine. Magnum Venus Products has over 60 years of experience serving our customers, delivering highly customized solutions that support their manufacturing needs.
To learn more, visit MVPind.com today!