In the wind industry, a new carbon fiber material could bring performance and cost benefits if used commercially, says a study carried out by researchers at Sandia National Laboratories.
Coming to the composition, wind blades that comprise carbon fiber are 25% less in weight than those made of traditional fiberglass materials. This implies carbon fiber blades could be longer than that of fiberglass, hence, could arrest more energy at places with low wind. Furthermore, switching to carbon fiber could also extend blade lifetime because of its high fatigue resistance, stated the principal investigator of the project.
The project received funding by the Wind Energy Technologies Office, Department of Energy at the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Montana State and Oak Ridge National Laboratory are partners of the study.
Use of Carbon Fiber Materials currently limited to one Wind Power Company
In fact, of all the companies generating wind turbines, carbon fiber materials is used by only one extensively for blade designs. Meanwhile, of all single-unit composite structures, wind turbines blades are the largest. For this, the wind industry could account for the largest demand for carbon fiber materials by weight. This holds if a material that is at par with fiberglass reinforced composites commercially available on a cost-value basis.
However, currently, the wind and carbon fiber sectors are separate. And, only commercially available blades are used in the wind industry for the design of wind turbine blades. Furthermore, manufacturers of carbon fiber face hurdles for innovation due to high costs to introduce new production lines for the wind industry.
In fact, in the wind industry, cost is the main consideration for the design of components. Compression and ability to withstand fatigue are also some aspects that turbine manufacturers need to keep in mind to build blades.