Composites in Wind Energy Technology
As early as 1957, under the guidance of wind energy pioneer, Professor Ulrich Hütter, the first rotor blades were used. These were made from glass-fibre reinforced plastics (GRP) and had a length of 17 metres. Even GROWIAN (Große Windenergieanlage) the great wind power plant which was once the largest wind converter on the plant, was constructed using GRP materials. In the early 70s, the serial production of GRP rotor blades was developed on small systems, starting in Denmark. In the initial phases, the achieved performance was approximately 10 Kilowatts. Today, we are able to attain magnitudes of 8 to 10 Megawatts. With the rotor dimensions achieved in these systems, the GRP of the rotor blades is increasingly being replaced by the lighter and more rigid carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP). In the wind power sector, fibre reinforced plastics or composites can also potentially be employed not just in rotor blades, but also in other components throughout the system, for example, in the tower or in generator shafts (e.g. the "FlexShaft"). Rotor blades made from GRP and CFRP are spreading throughout the world at an increased rate.
Growth market wind energy: Success factors and opportunities
According to the European Wind Energy Association, 2015 alone saw the installation of 12,800 MW of wind energy capacity. This is an increase rate of 6.3 %. Rotor blades are currently up to 85 m in length and systems are up to 200 m in height. The basis for the further development of innovative materials in wind power systems is the further increase in the acceptance of regenerative power in politics and society. Further, there are still a range of potential optimisations that can be made in both the technologies and the materials themselves, for example, further developed materials (fibres and matrices, sandwich cores), in durability, quality, bird and lightning resistance, corrosion (especially in off-shore situations), erosion or recycling. Transportation properties, installation and maintenance have room for improvement and remote monitoring can be optimised further.