The U.S. DOE announced the selection of two organizations to develop larger wind turbine blades that can take advantage of better wind resources and can lower costs. Technological innovations such as taller wind turbine towers and larger rotors can more efficiently capture the stronger and more consistent wind resources typically found at greater heights above ground level. This past May, the Energy Department released a new report highlighting how the United States can unlock the vast potential for wind energy deployment in all 50 states, made possible through continued innovations in next-generation components like these.
In addition to accessing better wind resources, another focus of this research involves lowering blade weight and improving design to help industry reduce production costs. This will also help lower transportation costs for installing these very large components.
The two research and development projects will address the challenges of manufacturing, transporting, assembling, and installing rotor blades longer than 60 meters using design concepts scalable to greater lengths.
Wetzel Engineering, Inc. of Pflugerville, Texas, in partnership with the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Northern Power Systems, TPI Composites, and NextEra, will develop a field-assembled blade called “SparBladeTM” using a lightweight bonded composite space frame. Between 62–74 meters, this new technology is intended for operation on multi-megawatt wind turbines and tall towers. The new technology is expected to create a higher performance, lower weight, and lower cost wind turbine blade with significantly reduced transportation costs.
General Electric (GE), in partnership with NREL and TPI Composites, will design a jointed blade for onsite assembly to reduce transportation logistical constraints while meeting structural requirements for next-generation turbines. GE will gather input and engage industry to facilitate technology transfer as jointed blades are introduced in the United States.
This effort is part of the Department’s Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative, which aims to increase American competitiveness in the production of clean energy products and boost U.S. manufacturing competitiveness across the board by increasing energy productivity.