Highlights: WINDPOWER 2011, Anaheim, Calif.

The American Wind Energy Association's annual WINDPOWER exhibition and conference was held in Anaheim, Calif., May 22-26. Composites were a big part of the show's focus.

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA, Washington, D.C.) hosted its annual WINDPOWER show May 22-26 at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, Calif. Exhibitors representing the entire wind energy supply chain were on hand for what has become one of the world's largest wind energy trade shows. CompositesWorld's Donna Dawson attended and sent these composites-related notes from the event.

The United States is number two in the global wind market, with current installed wind capacity now 40 GW (40,000 MW); 5,115 MW were installed in 2010, down from 10,000 MW in 2009. A Manufacturers and Suppliers Panel, consisting of representatives from Clipper, Gamesa, GE, Siemens, Suzlon and Vestas, estimated a total addition in 2011-2012 of about 13 GW; but all bets are off for 2013, because U.S. tax incentives expire in 2012. The panel named the three biggest drivers of wind energy growth in the U.S. as “Policy, policy and policy,” naming long-term priorities as Clean Air and Energy Standards and a Transmission policy to level the playing field and put wind on a real footing with other resources. Key technology developments emphasized by the panel that offer opportunities for composites were lighter, taller towers and longer rotors and advances in material science.

In a later session on blade design, Wetzel Engineering (Lawrence, Kan.), Zoltek Corp. (St. Louis, Mo.) and Hexcel (Stamford, Conn.) encouraged the use of carbon tow in rotor blades to increase stiffness and reduce weight, especially for large offshore machines. Hexcel has opened a site in Wndsor, Colorado, for production of materials for the wind industry, claiming a 13 percent weight reduction in spar caps produces a 33 percent saving in the number of unidirectional prepreg layers in the cap, adding up to a 3.7 percent saving overall in the blade – equal to $1,200 in material and $750 in processing cost reduction.

Booths involved in composites production for the wind industry included:

Creative Foam Composite Systems (Fenton, Mich.) provides custom-shaped foam for rotor blade cores using lightweight core materials from multiple sources to meet core kitting needs. Capabilities include rapid prototyping, 5-axis CNC routering, 3-D mold math data and complex 3-D curves in thermoplastic core materials.

Dynabrade Inc. (Clarence, N.Y.) provides a variety of rotating hand tools for grinding and sanding composites (and steel) for the wind and other industries — all with integral dust collection — and appeared to be the only company at WINDPOWER offering these products.

ITW WindGroup had companies were on hand to display its products, including ITW Insulation Systems (Houston, Texas) featuring its TRYMER L Series Polyisocyanurate Foams; Schnee-Morehead (Irving, Texas) brought its advanced sealant technology to the show; and ITW Plexus (Danvers, Mass.) touted its structural adhesives for manufacture and repair of wind turbine blades, nacelle assemblies, lightning suppression systems and other industry-related applications.

LM Wind Power (Kolding, Denmark) featured its commitment to fiberglass blades made with polyester resin infusion and room-temperature cure, and its 61.5m/202-ft blades for 5 MW and 6 MW offshore turbines installed by REpower (Hamburg, Germany) in the North Sea and Irish Sea. LM is currently designing and testing an even longer blade for Alstom Power (Levallois-Perret, France), customized to fit Alstom’s new 6-MW wind turbine for the European offshore wind market.

Lectra (Paris, France) has about 65 cutting machines in the wind industry at this time, fitted with reciprocating carbide blades for cutting glass and carbon patterns for rotor blade and other composite parts layup.

It’s no surprise that Molded Fiber Glass Cos. (MFG, Ashtabula, Ohio) is a strong supplier to the wind industry. Of its 16 plants in the United States and Mexico, five are in production building fiberglass polyester nacelles and spinners and fiberglass epoxy blades by vacuum resin infusion for an estimated annual market of $120 million.

SIKA Corp. (Zurich, Switzerland, and Madison Heights, Mich.) offers a full range of bonding, sealing, damping and reinforcing products and solutions to the wind industry, from the wind turbine’s base foundation to the tip of the blades, capable of withstanding the tough climatic conditions of high-wind areas on land and sea.