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Wind turbine blades (WTB)

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  • Wind turbine blades are a key component of a wind turbine. Wind turbines are machines that turn wind energy into mechanical energy. The mechanical energy is then converted to electricity. Large utility-scale wind turbines use rotating wind turbine blades to generate that power.
  • Utility-scale wind turbines have over 8,000 parts. The turbines rotate around either a horizontal axis or a vertical axis. Horizontal-axis wind turbines (HAWT) are more common than vertical-axis wind turbines (VAWT). An HAWT can be up to 50 percent more efficient than a VAWT, because of design and location factors.
  • The HAWT evolved from the European four-bladed wood and fabric windmills. Modern large wind turbines use three blades because, aerodynamically, an odd number of blades is more efficient. Each wind turbine blade is approximately 65 to 130 feet (20 to 40 m) long.
  • Over the last 20 years, we have seen the standard blade size grow from 7.5m to well over 60m. In the future these tools that gather energy from the wind will only be limited in size and performance by materials and our innovation.
  • The blades are produced from strong laminated materials that have a high strength-to-weight ratio. Balsa, wood, fiberglass and carbon fiber can all be molded into airfoils. The wind turbine blades are painted light gray to blend in with clouds.
  • Adjusting the blade position provides greater control, allowing the wind turbine blades to reap the maximum amount of wind energy. The blades are always perpendicular to the wind, so they receive power throughout the entire rotation. A HAWT rotor component, including the wind turbine blades, makes up approximately 20% of the cost of manufacturing a utility-scale wind turbine.
  • Wind turbine blade static testing is employed to confirm required load profiles and validate blade designs, commonly subjecting blades to 150% of their rated loads. Accurately testing blades to failure requires high-force, high-precision and impact-worthy test equipment. It must be demonstrated that the blade can withstand both the ultimate loads and the fatigue loads to which the blade is expected to be subjected during its designed service life. In other words, the blade should not fail before the end of its expected service life.
  • MTS wind turbine blade fatigue test solutions apply automated cyclic loading to wind turbine blades at resonant frequency to excite the blade and achieve the desired strain rate. This offers a productive and accurate means for meeting the fatigue testing demands of International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) Technical Specification 61400-23.
  • Most wind turbine blades are fabricated using reinforced fiberglass composite materials with epoxy or vinyl ester matrices. Single or double shear webs are usually combined with planks of unidirectional laminates to form integral I-5 beam or box beam structures that carry the loads along the blade's span.
  • As demand for renewable energy increases, wind turbine blades are increasing in size, leading to longer blades that can achieve larger swept areas. However, gravity-induced bending loads on blades create dramatic increases in dynamic stress, heightening market demand for a material that reduces blade mass while retaining strength. The value of the global composite blade market is estimated at 4 billion in 2011, of which around 1.5 billion was raw materials.
  • Since oil leakage can penetrate into the blade laminate layers and cause the blade to come apart over time, leaks inside blades need to be cleaned up and controlled. Oil leaks on the outside of blades can attract dirt and bug build up causing reduced performance. Visible blade cracks are the easiest way to see that a blade has problems. All cracks should be reported to ensure that the crack can be repaired before it becomes a bigger problem. As cracks tend to propagate, the repairs only get more expensive with time. Cracks can allow water to enter the blade, which can cause damage in freeze-thaw climates.
  • As lightning strikes can cause various amounts of damage to wind turbines, this is a focal point for engineers working to improve blade survivability. Typical methods of controlling lightning consist of bare metal pucks near the tips of the blades. As ice build up on blades can be very dangerous, it is best practice to stay clear of the machine until all the ice is gone. Ice reduces the efficiency of the airfoil, and can unbalance the rotor.
  • Blades must be balanced so they do not cause excessive loads on the rest of the turbine or tower. Just like the wheels on a car, rotating blades cause repetitive swinging loads if they are not balanced.
  • Some finish work can cause you to lose energy production, such as brush marks in the gel coat on the leading edges of blades. Unless the aerodynamic engineers built these brush marks into the airfoil they shouldn't be there. You may want to take time to sand them out of your new blades. It is the same as having clean blades versus dirty blades.

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