Composite Wind Turbines Turn More Opportunity for Savings
The growing capacity of the U.S. wind market is more and more reliant on composite materials. Wind turbines have traditionally been composed of steel and aluminum, yet manufacturers have realized the benefits of incorporating composites into wind turbine production and repair. The increase in demand for high strength materials coupled with low-cost production technologies is expected to create further adoption of composites in various applications in the wind energy segment.
According to the American Wind Energy Association, U.S. wind capacity has increased nearly fourfold in the last 10 years. Composite materials like fiberglass and carbon fiber combined with vinyl-ester or epoxy resins offer a lightweight, structurally durable, and high-performing solution to construct longer wind turbine blades to improve wind energy production—up to six times longer than original commercial-grade wind turbines.
Growth of the wind market and wind turbines
Most wind turbines are built from glass fiber composites, which are also traditionally used to construct their spar caps. The spar cap stretches the length of the blade and is responsible for a good portion of the blade’s strength. Along with the need for longer blades to capture more wind energy comes the need for a lightweight option to manufacture spar caps. Carbon fiber reinforcement in spar caps is an efficient way to reduce overall weight and increase blade stiffness.
Composites and the next generation of wind turbines
In addition to producing composite-based structural parts, composites can be useful to extend the lifespan of wind turbines. Given the current 20 to 30-year lifespan of wind turbine blades, many are nearing the end of their operational lifespan. Manufacturers will inevitably look to the most advanced materials to manufacture longer wind turbine blades to help produce more—and more efficient—wind energy.
Wind protection tape can be used to protect the blade’s surface, while blade repair kits made of epoxy resins and polyurethane fillers allow for smaller scale, non-structural repairs that can be performed quickly with minimal downtime and lost energy generation.
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