IACMI-The Composites Institute Teams with Industry to Unveil Unique Combination of Technologies in Nine-Meter Wind Turbine Blade

1st February 2017

The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI), a Manufacturing USA institute driven by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), will unveil an advanced technology prototype wind blade during the Winter IACMI members meeting February 1-2 in Denver, Colorado. The nine- meter long blade was fabricated at IACMI’s Wind Technology Area in the Denver, Colorado area. Commercialization of the wind blade prototype created could speed production times, reduce manufacture cost, and provide stronger, more energy-efficient blades for the United States.

A large team of eleven industrial partners, including Arkema Inc., Johns Manville, TPI Composites Inc., Huntsman Polyurethanes, Strongwell, DowAksa USA, Chomarat North America, Composites One, SikaAxson, Creative Foam and Chem-Trend, provided materials and on site fabrication support for blade component manufacturing and assembly. Pultruded spar caps were fabricated at Strongwell in Bristol, Virginia and shipped to Colorado for incorporation into the blade shells. The project was led by IACMI’s Wind Technology Area, based in the Denver, Colorado area , with support from IACMI Headquarters, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office, and the Advanced Industries Program administered by the Colorado Office of Economic Trade and Development (OEDIT).

This project is a perfect example of IACMI’s strength bringing together partners representing the entire industry supply chain to demonstrate the latest technologies to address cost and performance of composites,” said Bryan Dods, IACMI-The Composites Institute CEO. “Wind energy OEMs are showing great interest in the current research and development work and we anticipate continued collaboration to mature these technologies.”

The prototype blade is based on an existing design from previous work conducted by the DOE, representing a small-scale version of a utility-scale multi-megawatt blade. The new blade, molded on tooling supplied by TPI Composites, Inc., features innovations such as impact resistant components, continuous fiber reinforced thermoplastic parts and exterior shell components produced with less than half the normal CO2 emissions commonly emitted in wind blade manufacture.

These innovations can be deployed in the near term in existing blade manufacturing plants,” said Derek Berry, IACMI’s Wind Technology Area Director. “The ability to infuse at room temperature, demold more quickly, and avoid post cure, plus use of low cost carbon fiber spar caps produced via high speed pultrusion, all contribute to reductions in the levelized cost of energy, the key measure of wind turbine efficiency.”

The first public display of the blade will occur during an event in the Denver, Colorado area on January 31, 2017. The blade will then be transported overnight to downtown Denver for display during the IACMI Winter 2017 Members Meeting, where details on the materials and fabrication process will be presented.