BVG Associates (Cricklade, Swindon, U.K.), in a report commissioned by The Crown Estate, concludes that, by 2020, £2 billion will be spent annually on the manufacture of wind turbine blades alone for offshore wind farms in Europe.
The report also shows that the annual composites demand for European offshore wind will reach 100,000 tonnes by the end of the decade. In addition to blade manufacture, the report highlights other areas where composites are, or could be, used in offshore wind farm components, the manufacturing processes employed, and the technological and the market drivers. Reducing the cost of energy is a high priority for the offshore wind industry and the report identifies where expertise from other composites sectors could make a difference. In particular, there is significant attention being given the automated manufacture of rotor blades up to 100m/328 ft long.
There is limited prospect of new blade manufacturers entering the market as most large-scale wind turbine manufacturers make their own blades. But, throughout the supply chain, there are significant opportunities in tooling supply and manufacturing support, material and subcomponent supply, research and development of processes and materials and blade inspection and repair.
According to Julian Brown, associate director of BVG Associates, “The U.K. composites industry has much to offer and much to gain if it takes up the wind sector’s challenge of volume manufacture with year-on-year cost reductions. The wind industry has a need for new technologies that may be in development in parallel sectors. The high level partnership between Boeing and Vestas Wind Systems demonstrates the synergies that exist.”