Astraeus Wind Energy Inc. (Lansing, Mich., USA), working with MAG Industrial Automation Systems (Hebron, Ky., USA), Dowding Machining LLC (Lansing, Mich., USA), and Dow Chemical (Midland, Mich., USA), has received a $6 million matching funds grant from the Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF). MAG will receive $5 million, with $1 million to be used by Dow Chemical in cooperation with Oak Ridge National Laboratories (ORNL, Oak Ridge, Tenn., USA), to fund development of automated manufacturing technology for wind turbine blade spars, using a MAG advanced composite lay-up system combined with a new lower-cost carbon fiber and resin from Dow Chemical.
"MAG’s collaboration with ORNL and Dow will marry a new carbon fiber and resin with an advanced manufacturing system that will change the economics of making wind blades," said Joe Jones, executive vice president of MAG's Renewable Energy Group. The new material layup system brings integrated manufacturing, with automation and repeatable process control, to wind blade fabrication, historically a manual process that results in blade imperfections and weight variations, leading to higher warranty and replacement costs.
"MAG has adapted technology which is based on 30 years of development, experience and leadership in composites processing systems for manufacture of aircraft components," said Jones. "It is a proven, high-tech manufacturing system that, coupled with the new materials from ORNL and Dow, will result in a longer-lasting, more consistently produced wind blade with a very attractive cost structure."
In addition to receiving the funds, Astraeus has been designated a Center of Energy Excellence by the MSF. This follows a $7 million grant Astraeus received in December 2009, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, to have MAG and Dowding develop a new high-efficiency machining technology for wind turbine hubs. The hub machining cell, set to be in production later this year, reportedly will dramatically reduce costs by increasing production rates from the current standard of one per day to as many as five per day.