A £2.3million research partnership between the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult and the University of Bristol could help unlock larger and more powerful wind turbines than ever before.
Forming the Wind Blade Research Hub (WBRH), the five-year partnership has its sights set on building more efficient blades that harness more energy from the wind, which will prove crucial as the industry prepares to nearly double the power of offshore wind turbines, from 8MW today to 13-15MW by 2025.
Dr Stephen Wyatt, ORE Catapult’s Research and Disruptive Innovation Director, said: “Producing ever larger turbines means manufacturing even longer blades – something which pushes current technology to the very limit.
“As such, these longer blades will need to be constructed using new designs, materials and new construction and manufacturing processes – and these new blades will need to be tested and validated. The WBRH provides a mechanism for pulling all of these different strands together.
“With world-leading composites expertise, over 150 researchers dedicated to everything from aerodynamics and blade design, to materials and manufacturing, the University of Bristol is the ideal partner with whom to take forward this work.”
Phase one of the industry-leading programme of strategic research and development will investigate blade materials and manufacturing technology, blade integrity, blade design and performance.
It is also expected that the WBRH will provide a blueprint for future industry/academic collaborations in areas such as electrical infrastructure, foundations and powertrains.
The Hub will be supported by a group of PhD and EngD students, a post-doctoral researcher and a lecturer from the University of Bristol, working alongside the Catapult’s blades research team. Professor Paul Weaver and Dr Alberto Pirrera from the University of Bristol – as Scientific Director and Senior Academic of the WBRH respectively – will oversee the Hub’s operation alongside ORE Catapult’s Head of Strategic Research, Paul McKeever.
“This unique opportunity to partner with the Catapult came at just the right time for us,” said Professor Weaver. “Our University has made a strategic commitment to grow all aspects of research associated with sustainability, and participating in the WBRH enables us to pursue that strategy.
“The Hub will also enable us to develop the people and the elite technical skills that the industry needs. We hope that many of our postgraduate students will go on to forge careers in the industry, and that the University will have an impact in influencing the future strategic research agenda in this area.”
Dr Wyatt added: “We already have two significant blade manufacturing facilities in the UK – Siemens in Hull and MHI Vestas on the Isle of Wight – and we believe that the Hub can play an integral role in linking those facilities and their manufacturers back into the technical expertise, research activity and testing assets of the Hub’s partners.”