As the size of commercial wind turbines continues to grow, designers are being pushed to develop lighter turbine blades that allow the larger turbines to efficiently convert wind energy to usable electricity — and to do so without breaking. Seeing an opportunity in the turbine material sector, Owens Corning (NYSE: OC) recently announced it will begin selling a high-performance reinforcing fabric for use in the manufacture of wind turbine blades that will allow designers to reduce the weight of 2-megawatt wind turbine by one metric ton.
The fabric, called Ultrablade, will be finished with an epoxy resin to establish the strength and rigidity required in a wind turbine blade.
“Ultrablade fabric solutions give designers much more freedom in developing longer blades for today’s large turbines,” says Dr Chris Skinner, director of global technical marketing for OCV Technical Fabrics, a division of Owens Corning.
As compared to traditional E-glass blades, Ultrablade reduces spar weight by 18 percent, allows increase in blade length by 6 percent and improves blade stiffness by up to 20 percent.
According to Skinner, “designers can use a combination of several improved properties in different areas of a blade. They can choose to increase blade length for any given weight while keeping the thrust constant and assuring sufficient tower clearance.”
Lighter blades also mean turbines will be able to spin and generate electricity with greater efficiency at lower wind speeds.
“At lower wind speeds, weight-saving Ultrablade fabric solutions can help increase a blade’s aerodynamic lift, torque and energy output. The end-result will be higher annual energy production from optimised blade designs using high-performance fabrics.”
The company is using distinctive pink stitching to market the product to buyers familiar with the “Pink Panther” Owens Corning fiberglass insulation. Ultrablade fabric will be commercially available beginning in January 2011.
Article by Timothy B. Hurst, appearing courtesy Earth and Industry.