From a historical perspective, a mixed set of factors have affected the composites industry, crossing socio-political, technology, marketing and environmental issues.
Composite technologies have come a long way in a relatively short time and have made high performance composites an extremely attractive option for wind turbine manufacturers because they are lightweight and there is always a need for lighter weight to enhance turbine performance.
Focused on producing high quality, large and lightweight parts, the industry is addressing how to strike a balance between speeding up parts manufacturing, reducing investment costs and producing excellent results. Processing capabilities have thereby fallen in the spotlight with the onus on the requirement for better, high performance technologies.
Government directives did originally spur initiatives for renewable technologies, but what we’re seeing now is both pull from the market and push from the industry focused on increasing the proportion of energy we use from renewable sources. By and large, these influencers are mostly responsible for the significant growth in the composites market today.
Wind energy is a key market for composites and blade manufacturers are very much focused on the continuous improvement of wind turbine performance. Requirements for developing higher performance materials with an emphasis on lowering toxic risk while sustaining very good processing conditions is another key area in which Huntsman is actively concentrating its efforts.
Technical and market developments over the past two decades have turned this once marginal application into a global giant, which is also fast becoming one of the world’s largest markets for composites.
Wind energy has become is undisputedly the number one choice in Europe's efforts to move towards clean, renewable power and is expected to power industry, business and homes with clean electricity for many years to come.
With more than ten years’ experience operating in this market, Huntsman Advanced Materials’ R&D and technical team is continuously working to improve the structural integrity and mechanical requirements of the wind turbine blades of tomorrow as the uptake of composites continues.
Philippe Michaud is Huntsman Advanced Materials Technology Director. For more information, visit www.huntsman.com/advanced_materials