Fabric Wind Turbine Blade Design Offers Clean Energy
Conventional wind turbine blade designs use fiberglass. A new approach using architectural fabrics could change the way blades are designed, manufactured and installed.
GE researchers, in partnership with Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) are exploring a new wind turbine blade design and manufacturing approach using architectural fabrics that could be wrapped around a metal space frame resembling a fishbone.
The new wind turbine blade design being explored could reduce blade costs 25% to 40%. This degree of cost reduction could make wind energy as economical as fossil fuels without government subsidies.
It is estimated that to achieve the national goal of 20% wind power in the U.S., wind blades would need to grow in length by 50%—a figure that would be virtually impossible to realize given the size constraints imposed by current technology. Lighter fabric blades could make this goal attainable.
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Updated 21 June 2015
First published 2 Sep 2012