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Blade technologies must evolve rapidly in order to meet the rigorous demands of the offshore sector and do so in a cost-effective way. Bigger turbines require longer blades capable of withstanding higher tip speeds and greater mechanical loadings.  On top of these stresses, blades must deal with often adverse metocean conditions, including lightning strikes, turbulence and the ongoing corrosive effects of a salt water and often humid environment. Combined, these factors challenge the boundaries of engineering and materials science knowledge.

In common with other key turbine components, blade reliability is critical given the high costs and logistical complexities associated with offshore operations and maintenance. Improving repair techniques and technologies will contribute to cost reduction; whilst advances in-field blade condition monitoring equipment will aide industry best practice by allowing wind farm operators to better plan their turbine maintenance regimes. For example, the development of “intelligent” predictive condition monitoring systems will eventually enable wind farm operators to pre-emptively replace components prior to in-field failure.

Testing facilities

The National Renewable Energy Centre comprises a tried and tested 50m test facility (BTF1), and a new forward facing 100m facility (BTF2), designed and built to accommodate the next generation of longer blades being developed for the offshore wind market.  This asset base is supported by experienced test engineers and project staff who are capable of designing innovative tests and supporting research initiatives.

We perform structural testing of blades in accordance with IEC and ISO standards or to customer requirements. Both facilities are accredited to ISO17025 by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS).

From mid-2015 BTF2 will have a fully commissioned ground mounted hydraulic exciter (RAT) which will support the requirements of testing long blades in addition to facilitating a wider research portfolio.

The large floor area, lifting capacity, high pressure hydraulic units and data acquisition system allows the facilities to be utilised for supporting other types of customer product testing such as bespoke marine foundation rigs, offshore cable mechanical bend tests and hosting blade repair training courses.

Watch the video below of Blade Dynamics’ 78m modular blade arriving at ORE Catapult for structural testing.

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