The Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult is working with Edinburgh-based SME ACT Blade to develop and test next-generation engineered textile wind turbine blades.
After they responded to one of ORE Catapult’s Innovation Challenges, the Catapult team worked with engineers from world-leading yachting design specialists SMAR Azure, resulting in the spin-off company ACT Blade.
The aim was to study the feasibility of adapting their sail modelling technology into modular blades that are over 50% lighter than those in use today. Put simply, a lighter blade can achieve greater power production. If a blade is lighter, it can be made longer. In turn, the longer blade captures more wind. That increases energy production, which lowers the levelised cost of energy (LCoE).
Made up of an internal composite structure and high-tech textiles, as opposed to the prevailing fibreglass, ACT Blade’s disruptive design has the potential to reduce the LCoE by 8.7% while increasing energy production by 9.7%.
The development of modular blades also has implications for developing countries, where poorer infrastructure means full-length blades are all but impossible to transport. And there are environmental advantages, too: while glass fibre blades are landfilled at the end of their working life, ACT Blades will use recycled carbon fibre.
After helping the company to secure several rounds of investment, ORE Catapult is developing a new test rig at our facility in Blyth, which will validate and demonstrate a section of the blade. Both organisations are confident that when brought to market, this technology will have a huge impact on the cost of offshore wind.