Two of the world’s leading wind energy institutions have joined forces and nationally funded projects in a €17.6M (US$20.2M) project to make the rotor blades for wind turbines more structurally sound.
Researchers at Fraunhofer IWES in Germany and DTU Wind Energy in Denmark plan to design a 40-m blade that will serve as a blueprint to manufacture two blades at Fraunhofer IWES and test them at DTU Wind Energy in order to intentionally damage them under controlled conditions.
Together, they plan to use the RELIABLADE project to improve the structural reliability of rotor blades. That is important, as rotor blades account for a significant part of turbine costs and repair and service costs are high. The results from the project will enable industry to enhance cost-efficiency, reduce the levelised cost of energy and increase competitiveness.
DTU Wind Energy project manager Kim Branner said “The vision for the project is to develop methodologies for design, operation and maintenance of wind turbine rotor blades using a digital twin of every blade manufactured. We will then use this digital twin to follow the current state and predict the future state of each blade during its life cycle, using an automated condition monitoring approach.”
Fraunhofer IWES project manager Florian Sayer said “We want to improve the understanding of the structural behaviour of rotor blades. To do so, we have developed a project in which we have control over blade design, manufacturing and testing and can investigate damage processes over the entire blade life, using advanced numerical and experimental methods. This is truly unique in wind turbine blade research and enables us to validate complex damage models.”
To address as wide a range of damage modes as possible, the rotor blades built in Germany will have deliberate production errors, such as inferior bond lines and damage to composite or sandwich materials. The test blades will then be sent to the project partner DTU Wind Energy, where the behaviour of the damaged parts will be assessed.
The partners in the project also plan to test components and subcomponents and develop fatigue models as well as damage prediction techniques.
The Danish part of RELIABLADE has budget of €11.1M and is supported by Energy Technology Development and Demonstration Program (€5.9M). The German part of RELIABLADE is financed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy to the tune of €6.5M.
Partners in the Danish part of the project also include Vestas Wind Systems, LM Wind Power, IBM Denmark, FORCE Technology, Siemens Industry Software, CEKO Sensors, Dantec Dynamics, Blade Test Centre, Zebicon, Olsen Wings and DTU Compute. The other partner in the German project is Leibniz University Hannover.