The United States Department of Energy (DOE) announced last week it will invest $1.8 million in two projects to develop larger wind turbines made with composites. The funding is part of the DOE’s Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative, which it says “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.”
The DOE says the two projects will reveal manufacturing, transportation, and site assembly challenges that come with making large rotor blades. The goal is to create blades longer than 60 meters.
The first project will have Wetzel Engineering, Inc. collaborate with the DOE’S National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Northern Power Systems, TPI Composites, and NextEra to develop a field-assembled blade called “SparBladeTM.” The blade will be between 62-74 meters and will be have a lightweight bonded composite space frame. According to the DOE, the blade is intended to be operational on multi-megawatt wind turbines and tall towers. They add that using composites for the project comes with a number of benefits.
“The new technology is expected to create a higher performance, lower weight, and lower cost wind turbine blade with significantly reduced transportation costs,” the Sept. 15 DOE press release said.
The second project will have Generic Electric (GE) collaborate with NREL and TPI Composites to design a jointed blade for onsite assembly. The DOE believes this will “reduce transportation logistical constraints while meeting structural requirements for next-generation turbines.”
TPI Composites has been on the DOE’s radar for the past few years. As green energy blog CleanTechnica notes, the company has a 50-year track record with composites innovation and is also a partner of the recently launched Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI).