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Impact Assessment of Materials in Wind Energy Generation (Technical Insights) : Assessment of Materials Used for Wind Turbine Blades

  • March 2015
  • 49 pages
  • Frost & Sullivan
Report ID: 2838381


Table of Contents

Research Scope

•Various types of materials are employed for different applications in the wind energy sector. The use of materials for wind energy has become an active field of research as it significantly contributes to the operational and technological productivity of wind energy generation. Composite materials are primarily employed in the rotor blades as well as in other components such as turbine housings (nacelles).
•This research service (RS) titled, “Impact Assessment of Materials in Wind Energy Generation” reviews technology developments that might significantly impact existing and emerging material technologies employed in manufacturing of strong and durable rotor blades for wind energy generation.

Essentially, this research service provides:
A) A brief snapshot of various materials used, industry value chain, and technology capability focusing on rotor blade manufacturing.
B) An overview of key business and technological trends and challenges that impact wider adoption of wind energy in emerging markets.
C) A review of recent innovations and their impact.
D) Emerging opportunities for material technologies.
E) A brief snapshot of key patents in this space.
F) A list of key contacts in the industry.

Key Findings

Technology development and adoption is relatively stable in this sector. The recent emphasis on shifting to renewable sources of energy and simultaneous adoption in emerging markets, such as China and India is expected to drive research and development of new materials and fabrication techniques for blade manufacturing.
Most of the blades are manufactured either using glass fiber or carbon fiber reinforced plastic composite materials. Glass fiber composites are predominantly used owing to their lower cost compared to that of carbon fiber.
The major drivers contributing to the adoption of glass fiber reinforced plastics (GFRPs) are desirable modulus of elasticity, attractive inter-bonding characteristics, corrosion resistance, and desirable strength-to-weight ratio. The major factors deterring the adoption of GFRPs are the cost of materials and fabrication defects or flaws.
The major drivers contributing to the adoption of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRPs) are their higher resistance to corrosion and high stiffness-to-density ratio. The aforementioned characteristics make CFRPs more compatible with the requirements of the industry. However, these traditional advantages of CFRPs over GFRPs are neutralized due to higher sensitivity toward fabrication defects and the requirement of sophisticated technologies, such as pre-impregnation.
In offshore wind turbines, the blade lengths go up to x m. The total power generated is expected to increase from x GW in 2014 to x GW in 2020. The size of turbines and length of blades are increased to optimize power generation capacities. New hybrid materials are being researched which would be a combination of glass and carbon fibers with metals to address the growing industrial and technological demands.

Technology Snapshot

•With the gravitation toward renewable sources of energy, the combined measures by both the developed markets and emerging markets are improving the adoption of wind energy generation.
•Studies have shown significant intertwinement of the economic prospects and the durability and reliability of the composite materials used for manufacturing rotor blades. Such a scenario reiterates the importance of choosing the correct composite material and the process used to manufacture it.

Although the market is in a favourable spot as far as growth of the industry is concerned, the industry is facing new challenges, which are chiefly technological.
These challenges include attaining acceptable stiffness, prevention of blade deflection, avoidance of buckling failure, and fatigue resistance under cyclic or constantly varying loads. Therefore, the development of new materials and processes is of higher importance than ever to satisfy the present market requirements.

•About x tonnes of composite materials are used for manufacturing blades annually and this segment is poised to grow at a rate of x % annually between 2015 and 2020 according to a Frost & Sullivan analysis.
•As of 2014, global wind energy generation is x GW annually, which is poised to grow to x GW even when there is growth in competing technologies, such as solar energy generation.

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