New ideas in wind energy take flight
As the wind industry looks to the next generation of technologies, a key focal point is the blade. Improving the performance and economics of wind energy requires a longer, more aerodynamic blade. But the challenge of a longer blade is weight — adding too much additional weight not only places undue stress on the overall turbine structure, it also negates any potential gains in power capacity and efficiency. However, GE is well equipped for the challenge.
Applying 25 years of aviation research in carbon composites, GE researchers in Niskayuna, New York, and Munich, Germany, are developing a longer, more advanced wind blade. Carbon composites, which are comprised of carbon fibers and resins, provide a stronger and lighter alternative to current materials. GE Aviation used composites in the fan blade of the GE90, which was commercialized in the mid 1990s. We have since expanded the use of composites to the fan case for the GEnx, Aviation’s newest aircraft engine platform for wide-body aircraft. In both engines, reductions in weight have led to improved fuel economy and performance over previous-generation engines.
Reducing blade weight can allow wind power to be scaled in an economical way. Our researchers are applying lighter carbon fiber composites inside the blade, which could ultimately result in a weight savings of 30 percent. Researchers are also exploring new aerodynamic designs to further maximize wind capture.
From lighter material alternatives to more sophisticated designs, GE has given flight to new ways to improve wind power.