New Composite Reinforcement Solution for Wind Turbine Manufacturers

Owens Corning (NYSE:OC), a leading global producer of reinforcement solutions for composite systems and residential and commercial building materials, today introduced Ultrablade fabric solutions to help enable the market transition to longer, lighter and stiffer wind turbine rotor blades. The new solutions, which will be commercially available in January 2011, can help designers remove nearly a metric ton of reinforcement and resin from 2.0 megawatt (MW) wind turbines compared to same-size blade sets made with traditional E-glass.

Compared to standard fabrics, Ultrablade fabrics in epoxy resin can:

  • Reduce spar weight by up to 18 percent while keeping length constant
  • Increase blade length by up to 6 percent
  • Improve blade stiffness by up to 20 percent
  • Decrease blade thickness by up to 6 percent to increase aerodynamic efficiency and generate higher torque for driving turbines
  • Reduce total blade weight by up to 5 percent to ease the load on the turbine and tower, and enabling turbines to operate effectively at lower wind speeds

"Ultrablade fabric solutions give designers much more freedom in developing longer blades for today's large turbines," said Dr. Chris Skinner, director of global technical marketing for OCV Technical Fabrics.

"As the market continues to move to larger-capacity wind turbines needing longer blades, designers can use a combination of several improved properties in different areas of a blade," continued Skinner. "They can choose to increase blade length for any given weight while keeping the thrust constant and assuring sufficient tower clearance. At lower wind speeds, weight-saving Ultrablade fabric solutions can help increase a blade's aerodynamic lift, torque and energy output. The end-result will be higher annual energy production from optimized blade designs using high-performance fabrics."

Owens Corning Ultrablade fabric is the latest result of the company's ability to work systematically on the design and optimization of the total reinforcement system for its customers. As a major integrated company making proprietary glass-fiber reinforcements, sizing chemistry and a full range of fabric solutions, Owens Corning is able to combine those areas of expertise to optimize the total performance of the reinforcement system in an end use application.

The company is using a distinctive PINK stitching to identify Ultrablade fabric in the marketplace. Owens Corning has been using PINK in its products since the 1950s and the color has become a mark associated with innovation, performance and quality.

Ultrablade fabric solutions will be produced in a number of the company's facilities globally. In China, the products will be manufactured at plants in Changzhou and Doudian.

Wind Energy Market Dynamics

New generation wind turbine designs are continuing to push up the power generating capacity of wind turbines. A common trend among larger capacity designs is the use of longer blades. Covering a larger area effectively increases the tip-speed of a turbine at a given wind velocity, thus increasing the energy extraction capability of the system. According to a report published by China Daily in February, there has been a dramatic shift in market demand in recent years from 37.5-meter (123 foot) blades, to blades that are 40.3 meters (132 ft.).

At the end of 2009, wind power in China accounted for 25.1 gigawatts (GW) of electrical generating capacity and the country has identified wind power as a key growth component of its economy. China is now the largest producer of wind turbines and the second-largest producer of wind power, after the United States.

According to the Global Wind Energy Council, China is expected to remain one of the main drivers of global growth in the coming years with annual additions of more than 20 GW by 2014. This development is supported by a very aggressive government policy and the growth of the domestic industry. The Chinese government has an unofficial target of 150 GW of wind capacity by 2020.

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