Glasgow-based Renewables Catapult launches £1m research project into ‘rusty’ wind turbine blades

'Rusty' wind turbine blades
‘Rusty’ wind turbine blades

The Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult is asking offshore wind industry leaders to join a £1 million project aimed at tackling turbine blade leading edge erosion.

Blade leading-edge erosion is a problem both on and offshore, but the erosion seems to be accelerated offshore due to harsher environmental conditions.

Erosion affects the aerodynamic performance of the blade, which leads to reduced turbine efficiency, reliability and availability, as well as increased operations and maintenance activity with repairs in situ being difficult and expensive.

All this proves costly for offshore wind farm owner/operators through lost power generation and revenue.

Andrew Macdonald, Senior Innovation Manager, ORE Catapult, said: “This joint industry project aims to drive down risks and costs through improved decision making on blade repair, improved leading edge protection and repair solutions and, ultimately, improved yield from less eroded blades.

“The programme will support the development of standards for erosion testing and the establishment of test facilities for the research and development of advanced leading edge protection solutions.”

Most modern wind turbine blades are made from fibre-reinforced polymers (FRPs). These are composites consisting of a polymer matrix and fibres. Common types include glass and carbon reinforced plastic polymer. This means that they don’t ‘rust’ as such – but they nevertheless suffer from weather-related erosion and decay.

The Glasgow-based Catapult is inviting expressions of interest from industry to be involved in the 18 month collaborative project consisting of six work-packages:  

  1. A measurement campaign to quantify the impact of leading edge erosion on yield.
  2. Wind farm data analysis and tool development to inform operational decisions around blade leading edge repair and replacement.
  3. Offshore environment characterisation, where environmental data from operational wind farms will be combined with ocean and wind data to characterise site conditions that are related to leading edge erosion.
  4. Erosion damage measurement to improve inspection techniques and allow robust research and assessment of repair and protection solutions.
  5. Developing erosion test methods to generate repeatable, accurate and representative test methodologies that reflect realistic environmental conditions and erosion damage mechanisms.
  6. Repair and protection innovation challenges – utilising ORE Catapult’s expertise, testing facilities and market reach to support the development, testing and commercialisation of novel blade inspection, repair and protection solutions.

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