Wind farms are already common in Europe and other regions, and many more are expected to be built in the near future. This is due to the drive to increase the amount of energy we obtain from renewable sources. During 2009, the EU set a legally binding target for 20 % of its energy to come from wind and other renewable sources by 2030. Although Europe’s offshore wind industry has grown greatly during the past decade, it still faces challenges – the biggest of which is to become cost competitive. The EU-funded WALID (Wind blade using cost-effective advanced composite lightweight design) initiative used design, material and process developments to create a cost-efficient, lightweight and recyclable wind turbine blade. The scientists did this by looking to thermoplastics – substances that turn into plastic on heating, harden on cooling and can be reused by melting. Strength and stability are critical technical requirements for rotor blades, the size of which is proportional to the power they generate. However, the weight of large blades puts the materials they are made of under strain, leading to a shorter lifespan. In addition, offshore wind turbines operate under harsh environmental conditions, such as extreme temperatures, humidity and salt exposure. The blade developed by the WALID initiative is bigger, stronger and more cost efficient than traditional blades. Also, it’s made with recyclable materials using high-speed manufacturing. Further, the entire blade is protected from harsh conditions by a thermoplastic coating. This coating is highly resistant to erosion and UV rays, making the blade more durable. WALID’s blade is aimed at the offshore wind industry, but it may have potential to be marketed to the onshore industry too. This research initiative successfully demonstrated the use of thermoplastics in offshore rotor blades. In so doing, it has contributed to innovation in the industry and increased its potential revenue and customers.
Offshore wind turbines, recyclable, WALID, thermoplastics, rotor blades, coating