Flexible Blade to Reduce Wind Energy Costs

March 18, 2014 by  
Filed under Wind Energy Tips

Flexible blade tips of variable lengths could make wind turbines more efficient

ECN (Energy research Centre of the Netherlands) works in a project with several partners to create an innovative flexible blade concept.

The project aims to optimize individual wind turbines to their maximum performance by extending the rotor diameter with variable tip lengths. This technology concept has the potential to reduce the cost of energy by 8%-10%. The four-year project is being led by LM Wind Power and is supported by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs.

“The cost of wind power, especially offshore wind power, needs to go down to compete with other energy sources, and we are committed to making that happen,” says Roel W. Schuring, LM Wind Power’s vice president of engineering. “This project with our Dutch partners aims to help wind farm developers and wind turbine manufacturers to design wind farms better and to get the most from each turbine. This will improve annual energy production and reduce cost of energy. The potential is huge.”

According to the company’s press-release, many of the wind turbines running today are not loaded to their full capacity as typically the turbines installed are of similar design regardless of the position in the array. This project seeks to change that.

The project looks at design, material, manufacturing and assembly processes to achieve the most flexible and cost efficient solution. The concept is based on a standard basic blade part with variable tip lengths. It builds on an existing lightweight composite blade design, but innovates by using an assembly process, which leads to a permanent assembly of the two blade parts, adding minimal weight. The result is a larger rotor that increases annual energy production significantly for a relatively small investment.

The flexible blade tips are expected to be manufactured separately, which enables the use of specific techniques and a one-shot manufacturing technology while providing economies of scale. Assembly is expected to be done on or near site. The consortium points to offshore as the area that will benefit most from the method as the improved performance from the blade length optimization will see a quicker pay back at sea. The new rotor blade will also be a universal solution that can be adapted to various turbines and applied in every wind farm.

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