Fabric enhances wind turbine performance

Paul Boughton

Owens Corning announced at the European Wind Energy Conference and Exhibition in Athens, Greece, a breakthrough single-end roving and knitted fabric, Windstrand, which will allow the wind energy market to take another step forward in competing successfully against other alternative energy sources by reducing the cost per kilowatt-hour (kWh).

The product enables turbine manufacturers to increase blade lengths by as much as six per cent and deliver up to 12 per cent more power - for up to 20 per cent less cost than any competing carbon-glass hybrid material currently on the market.

In addition to the cost and performance benefits of Windstrand, the product also provides manufacturers with the traditional processability of glass, combined with the stiffness, strength and weight of other high-performance materials. Other product highlights compared to conventional E-glass include: up to 35 per cent higher tensile strengths; up to 17 per cent higher stiffness (modulus); and enhanced fatigue, impact, aging, corrosion, and temperature resistance.

The product, which is targeted to be commercially available in late 2006, is the first application using the new Owens Corning high-performance reinforcement platform, Hiper-tex, which is described as being the result of a revolution in glass melting, fiberising and sizing technology. The new reinforcement will be produced using the Owens Corning next-generation fibre glass manufacturing process, which has a significantly smaller environmental footprint than other technologies currently in use. The performance statistics for Windstrand are based on extensive beta testing in the field, and design blade optimisation by an independent research establishment based in the Netherlands Composite Technology Centre (CTC). CTC studied the effects of replacing traditional E-glass with Windstrand for several components in a 44m-long rotor or blade, suitable for a 2.5MW wind turbine.

“For 67 years, since the original invention of fibreglass, we've delivered sustainable, energy-saving solutions that truly transform markets and enhance lives,” says Chuck Dana, Owens Corning Composites Solutions Business president. “To continue that pioneering history with the introduction of a new product for wind energy, which is key to our collective ability to meet the rising demand for energy and to safeguard the security of energy supplies, is absolutely at the heart of our corporate purpose and our spirit of true innovation.”

The price parity per kwh of generated power varies considerably between different sources of energy. To further comply with the commitments made by the European Union under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, a recent EU Directive stipulates the need to help double the share of non-fossil renewable energy sources, such as wind, from six per cent to 12 per cent of gross energy consumption in Europe by 2010. The cost and performance benefits of innovations like Windstrand are essential to helping renewable energy sources like wind energy move to the next level of adoption in the global market.

This is the first time the EU has adopted legislation aimed at promoting the production of energy from renewable resources and is the first step on the road to attaining a sustainable energy system. If targets throughout the EU are met, the consumption of green electricity will rise from 14 per cent to 22 per cent by 2010.

However, wind energy power generation is not restricted to Europe; India is the fourth-largest producer of wind-based power after Germany, Spain and the USA, and China's current wind energy plan is to reach 20GW by 2020. In Latin America, Brazil offers the greatest potential, where wind energy could provide a cost-effective alternative to hydroelectric systems in some areas of the country where water is best used for irrigation.

For more information, visit www.owenscorning.com


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