Tuesday, 5 February 2013

The quest for the monster wind turbine blade

23 Jan 2013

Blade Dynamics, a six-year-old company that's partly owned by American Superconductor, a wind turbine designer and supplier of wind farm electronics, says that it has developed technology that will make possible the world's largest wind turbine blades. It's demonstrated the technology by manufacturing 49 meter blades, and now the Energy Technologies Institute, a partnership between the U.K, government and major corporations such as BP, Shell, and Caterpillar, has given the company nearly $25 million to build 100 meter blades. They could enable 250 meter-tall wind turbines that would tower over the Washington Monument, which stands a mere 169 meters tall. The largest wind turbine blades now are 75 meters long.

The effort is no mere record-setting spectacle. Finding affordable ways to make the enormous wind turbine blades is one of the biggest challenges to making offshore wind competitive with fossil fuels, and leading wind power companies, including GE and Vestas Wind Systems, are developing technology to solve the problem.

Some of the best winds for generating power are found offshore, where wind can be steadier, faster, and less turbulent than on land. Wind turbines only make up about a third of the cost of offshore wind farms--installation costs are the major expense, as they involve enormous, specialized ships and are subject to delays from bad weather. Using larger wind turbines reduces the number of wind turbines needed, decreasing installation and maintenance costs.

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