Innovation Challenges

We have identified a number of specific technology innovation challenges within the offshore renewable energy industry, the resolution of which will help drive down the cost of offshore renewable energy, and have a positive impact on the UK economy.

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We’re working with Edinburgh-based SME ACT Blade to develop and test next-generation engineered textile wind turbine blades. After they responded to one of our Innovation Challenges, our Strategy & Commercialisation team worked with engineers from world-leading yachting design specialists SMAR Azure, resulting in the spin-off company ACT Blade.

The challenge

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 than the current 55m standard. 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.

ACT Blade’s disruptive design has the potential to reduce the LCOE by 8.7% while increasing energy production by 9.7%.

The Solution

After helping the company to secure several rounds of investment, we’re developing a new test rig at our facility in Blyth, which will validate and demonstrate a section of the blade. We’re proud to be playing a major role in helping this fledgeling Scottish company to develop and confident that when brought to market, its technology can have a huge impact on the cost of offshore wind.

Thanks to the support we received from ORE Catapult to secure Innovate UK funding, a small section of the world’s first textile blade has been produced and is now being tested at the innovation and research centre in Blyth. Dr Sabrina Malpede, Chief Executive, ACT Blade

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