published in April 19, 2019 |
by Tina Casey
April 19, 2019 per Tina Casey
Last year, GE unleashed a monstrous coal-fired wind turbine, considered the largest and most efficient wind turbine in the world. The only thing missing was the blades of the turbine. Big ones. Like, bigger than any other turbine blade. Well, do not miss anything else. The new ultra-long turbine blades are taking shape in a factory in France, and the first is almost ready for your close.
The longest turbine blades in the world from LM Wind
When GE announced the new Haliade-X 12 MW wind turbine last year, the company planned to pair it with the longest blades in the world, at 107 meters.
GE has put its LM Wind Power turbine blade manufacturing business into the record breaking job. GE acquired the company in 2017, and LM already had some experience in breaking turbine length records.
In 2004, LM Wind produced the world's first blade to break the 60-meter barrier. It followed with two other record-players, including a 88.4-meter blade in 2016.
Yesterday, LM announced that it is now putting the final polish on its first blade in the 100 meters, the 107th LM. The next step is a series of tests to validate the performance of 20 years.
Then just make two more and send them out to sea, connect them to a turbine, install a cable and Bob's uncle. So do not hold your breath because, by 2021, the new turbine blades will go into commercial operation at sea.
Wood Wind Turbine Blades
So here's the crazy thing. If you were trying to guess what kind of materials are coming into the new blades of the turbine, carbon fiber would be a good guess. The glass can come in second, and you get brownie points if you guessed that the new blade is a combination of carbon fiber and glass.
What else? Oh right, wood. That's right. LM Wind Power started life in the 1940s by building wood furniture, so it's just a short jump and a jump to the use of wood in wind turbines, right?
Think of boatbuilding and fiberglass, and you're on the right track. The LM wind turbines are made from a fiberglass base and balsa wood, joined with resin and coating.
So interesting. Who knew that balsa wood is a high performance material? Basically, everyone. The ferry is a perfect material for wind turbine blades due to its low weight and high rigidity with respect to density.
Balsa wood is not just one thing about LM Wind Power. It is a very standardized material in the manufacture of turbine blades, which leads to the sustainability of the supply chain.
This is a very restricted supply chain. Currently, Ecuador meets almost all 5% of global demand for balsa wood, so the search for a sustainable alternative is under way.
A suitable alternative that costs less than the ferry would be a good goal, since the ferry is relatively expensive. Researchers also anticipate that a uniform raft substitute would improve performance compared to the natural raft.
Blades of coal-fired wind turbines
CleanTechnica is contacting GE to see if the company is exploring the alternative angle of the synthetic ferry, so stay tuned to learn more about it.
Meanwhile, a prototype version of the 12 MW Haliade-X turbine is being grounded this year in Rotterdam (land = ease of access, if you're wondering), so stay tuned to learn more about it.
As for the irony of wood killing coal, if you have any opinion on this, leave us a note in the comment.
The goal of producing longer wind turbine blades is to improve performance and efficiency, leading to reduced costs.
That's bad news for coal and natural gas.
The 107-meter blades are an element in the 63% capacity factor that GE claims for the Haliade-X 12 MW wind turbine. According to GE, this translates to something between five and seven points above the current industry standard, with each point representing approximately $ 7 million in revenue over the lifetime of the wind farm.
Wind Energy in the US
GE's 2021 operating schedule for the new Haliade-X fits perfectly with the sudden acceleration of the US offshore wind industry.
Plans to explore the wind resources of the country's Atlantic coast were first established during the Obama administration in 2010, but due to a confluence of cost, technology and policy (ok, mostly political), only a small offshore wind farm of five turbines in Rhode Island left the drawing board.
The last two years have seen a radical change, so to speak. The world's leading wind power developers are buying US offshore concessions and setting new supply records across the Atlantic coast, and the US Department of Energy has set up a national public-private consortium to drive market R & D .
If all goes according to plan, hundreds of sea-wind turbines will be punctuating the Atlantic coast in the coming years, and all of them will need new turbine blades.
I know right? Weird! US President Donald J. Trump is known for his antipathy to wind power (looking at you, Scotland). However, the Department of Energy has been talking nonstop of the US wind industry, and the Department of the Interior has also been promoting the rental program.
What could go wrong? So much for those interested in fossil fuels.
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* Developing history.
Photo: via LM Wind Power.