Breakthrough Wind Blade Concept Wins Outstanding Venture Award from

The complex logistics involved with transporting one-piece blades generally amounts to 3-5% of the total installed cost of each turbine. (PRNewsFoto/Wetzel Blade)

Among the winners of the 2014 Clean Energy Venture Awards at the U.S. Department of Energy’s () National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s NREL Industry Growth Forum, was . The startup company was presented with the Outstanding Venture award for their work on what insiders might call the Holy Grail for wind energy – a pre-fabricated, field-assembled turbine blade that boosts production capacity and outlasts current generation composite blades. Award winners receive in-kind commercialization support to help increase their chances of becoming commercially successful.

The new blade technology is based on a space frame design and features independently fabricated pultruded FRP spars. The parts are sized for easy transport and field-assembly, in similar fashion to high reliability military equipment.

Today’s current generation wind blades are fully assembled in large-scale factories and transported in one piece to wind farms. In the United States, the familiar 58-meter land turbine blades are the largest that can be transported in a traditional manner using supersized trailers with escort vehicles. The complex logistics involve coordinating drivers, escorts, permits and specialized equipment – which generally amounts to 3-5% of the total installed cost of each turbine.

According to Kyle Wetzel, CTO/Founder of Wetzel Blade and a well-published expert in design, “This concept emerged from a project that our parent company, Wetzel Engineering, was involved with in China. We were engineering a 100-meter wind blade for a 10MW turbine and wanted to eliminate shell panel buckling as a design driver. The balsa requirements presented another challenge – almost 10,000 kg of this expensive core material absorbing ~6,000kg of epoxy.”

“Because of our involvement with the entire turbine lifecycle, we understand that to make a real shift in the economics, a blade design must generate more electricity, cost less to build and maintain, and be more efficient to transport and install. The industry is hungry for a solution that delivers on all those points.”

Wetzel Blade is currently in the structural testing phase with plans to demonstrate a sub-scale prototype in early 2015.  The project has been partially funded through an SBIR/STTR award from the Department of Energy.

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This post was prepared by Solar Thermal Magazine staff.

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