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  • Wednesday, December 12, 2012


    Wind Blades: The “Fabric” of Our Clean Energy Future; GE, Virginia Tech, and NREL begin project that could change how wind blades are designed, manufactured, and installed.

    December 2, 2012 9Today’s Energy Solutions)

    “…[M]ost of the cost of electricity for wind [is] in the initial capital investments made in the wind turbines…[A new blade design from a GE, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University (Virginia Tech), and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) $5.6M ARPA-E three-year research project could change the way wind blades are designed, manufactured, and installed and] substantially lower the cost of wind energy…[The] new blade design could reduce blade costs 25% to 40%, making wind energy as economical as fossil fuels without government subsidies…

    “GE’s research will focus on the use of architectural fabrics, which would be wrapped around a metal spaceframe, resembling a fishbone. Fabric would be tensioned around ribs which run the length of the blade and specially designed to meet the demands of wind blade operations. Conventional wind blades are constructed out of fiberglass, which is heavier and more labor and time-intensive to manufacture.”

    “Advancements in blade technology will help spur the development of larger, lighter turbines that can capture more wind at lower wind speeds. Current technology doesn’t easily allow for construction of turbines that have rotor diameters exceeding 120 meters because of design, manufacturing, assembly, and transportation [costs and] constraints…GE’s new fabric-based technology…components could be built and assembled on site…

    “…[T]o achieve the national goal of 20% wind power in the U.S., wind blades would need to grow by 50%...Lighter fabric blades could make this goal attainable…The use of fabrics to reduce weight and provide a cost-effective cover dates back to the World War I era, when it was used on airplanes…GE has already begun using [an advanced, more rugged and reliable] spaceframe/tension fabric design in the construction of wind towers for better aesthetics, cost, and protection…GE’s blade architecture will be built to achieve a 20 year life with no regular maintenance to tension fabrics required.”


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