Wind Energy: In the U.S., the total composites market in wind energy grew by 24.2 percent in 2015. Last year, the Department of Energy funded $1.8 million for the support of research and development to improve the manufacturing, transportation and assembly of wind turbine blades larger than 60 meters. This initiative shows the United States’ commitment to the development of renewable energy.
The U.S. wind energy growth is predominantly dependent on the Production Tax Credit (PTC). Approximately 6,500 megawatts (MW) of new wind capacity was anticipated to be installed by the end of 2015, which is a 34 percent increase from 2014, but still short of the record 13,124 MW installed in 2012. However, towever, he industry witnessed strong federal and state incentives to invest in new wind facilities in 2015 and 2016. There are uncertainties in a PTC extension beyond 2016, which could lead to a boom and bust cycle in the market.
Opportunities and Challenges
In the next 50 years, there will be significant innovations in the composites industry as demand picks up across all market segments. Many of the innovations will be aimed at increasing performance, reducing cost and process time, and making applications more environmentally friendly.
The anticipated growth of the composites industry is likely to create a huge demand for well-trained composite technicians, engineers and designers. The skillset required today and in the future will not be same as 20 years ago, when composite parts were made using manual chopped guns, buckets and brushes. The composites industry is continuously moving toward automated manufacturing processes, such HP-RTM, automated tape lay-up and automated fiber placement. There’s also an influx of better design and simulation tools. These techniques and tools necessitate that composite designers and engineers have a deep understanding of composite materials to identify solutions for current and future challenges.
However, the composites industry struggles to attract and educate new talent. There’s is a huge need for universities to create undergraduate degree programs focused on the design, testing, manufacturing and repair of composites. The challenge for companies is not only to attract young graduates but also to retain existing skilled technicians and designers. Lucintel envisions an emergence of training institutes in next five years to develop skilled laborers for the composites industry.