GE Renewable Energy and Partners Complete Wind Turbine Blade Trials
31 Jul 2021 by Energy Global
GE Renewable Energy, LM Wind Power and GE Research, in partnership with the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) launched the ‘Automated Blade Finishing’ programme in 2020, aiming to improve throughput, Environmental Health and Safety (EHS), and quality in wind turbine blade manufacturing.
Blade finishing includes trimming excess material after moulding and grinding blade surface to meet quality requirements.
The programme’s vision is to leverage knowledge of advanced composite processing together with sensing, robotics and automation to develop low-cost solutions for wind blade finishing with potential to increase throughput by 30% and improve EHS in factories.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the team moved rapidly from concept to prototype boosted by the capabilities offered at NREL’s Composites Manufacturing Education and Technology (CoMET) facilities to perform quick proof of concept trials on blade sections.
The team was then able to collaborate with engineering, operations and EHS group at a LM Wind Power factory in Grand Forks, North Dakota, US, to perform successful trials on an actual wind turbine blade in production. The process innovations were supplemented with agile program management to pivot as necessary and leverage digital tools to perform virtual validations and reviews with partners.
The programme is supported by funding from DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) and Colorado’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT). AMO, through the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI), awarded NREL US$800 000. This was matched by US$400 000 from OEDIT, with US$600 000 in company matching contributions.