New composite materials enter the wind energy market

Zoltek and Global Blade Technology are joining forces to accelerate the design and manufacture of advanced wind turbine blades using Zoltek carbon fiber.

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While the recessionary economy has slowed innovation in some markets, the energy sector, largely on the strength of continuing wind energy development, is spurring activity among composite materials suppliers.
Among them is commercial-grade carbon fiber supplier Zoltek Corp. (St. Louis, Mo.), which announced, Sept. 10, a technology and marketing agreement with Global Blade Technology (GBT, Utrecht, The Netherlands) that, Zoltek expects, will accelerate adoption of carbon fibers into larger wind turbine blades.

“We are gratified that GBT has recognized Zoltek’s commercial carbon fibers as the key enabling material in designing and building the most efficient and powerful wind turbines,” says Zsolt Rumy, Zoltek’s chairman and CEO. Under the agreement, GBT has agreed to actively promote Zoltek carbon fibers in the development of blade designs while Zoltek will offer its fibers to GBT’s clients.  

Meanwhile, AGY (Aiken, S.C.) announced the approval of its new trademarked S-1 Glass rovings for use in wind turbine blade applications by Germanischer Lloyd, an international certification body in the wind-energy sector. AGY developed S-1 Glass in response to the need for higher performance glass fiber at a lower cost, says the company. “S-1 Glass bridges the cost and performance gap between E-Glass and higher performance glass, such as our S-2 Glass fibers, and is appropriate for use in spar caps for wind turbine blades,” says Drew Walker, AGY’s VP of sales and marketing. (For more on this product and wind energy-related glass fiber from PPG Industries (Cheswick, Pa.), see New Products.)

Elsewhere, Bayer MaterialScience LLC (Pittsburgh, Pa.) will receive a $750,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) to support development and testing of advanced composite technologies and resin infusion processes for larger, more efficient blades for 1.5+ MW wind turbines. The project, “Carbon Nanotube Reinforced Polyurethane Composites for Wind Turbine Blades,” is an initiative to accelerate development of advanced wind turbines, with a focus on overcoming technology barriers. The company will  seek materials innovations that improve turbine performance.