Wind energy is one of the most promising alternative energy sources in the world. In the U.S. alone, 41 states have operational wind power facilities producing the equivalent of enough power for 25,000,000 homes a year. Analysts expect the global wind turbine rotor blades market to grow well over 20% over the next five years.
The use of glass fiber in the production of wind turbine blades outpaces that of any other material. Reinforced glass fibers are advancing technology and encouraging implementation; how are they making the widespread adoption of wind energy possible?
- Glass fibers are easier to work with than other fibers.
Next to glass fiber, carbon fiber is the most talked-about blade construction material. Although carbon fiber is incredibly light, it’s expensive and must be manufactured under highly specific technical specs to perform correctly. Unlike E-glass fibers, carbon fiber is subject to wetout during vacuum infusion and its strength is directly tied to its specific fiber alignment. Glass fiber is more forgiving and thus can be melded with reinforcements on-site, saving valuable time and money during the logistics process.
- Glass fiber is long-lasting and durable.
Glass fiber, specifically “E-glass,” was adopted so readily in the wind turbine industry because once reinforced with resin, it’s extremely durable. Glass fiber blades have a lifespan of decades (called “fatigue”) and because they don’t conduct electricity, they’re not subject to corrosion like some other commonly-heralded materials. The stress-strain behavior of glass composites is highly predictable and linear in nature and thus maintenance can be scheduled rather than emergent.
- Glass fiber is highly versatile.
Because no one material has the perfect combination of strength, lightness, and durability, more and more energy producers are looking to combine two or more for best results. Glass fiber is ideal for pairing with aging or otherwise deficient equipment to extend the life of existing rotor blades. In fact, glass fiber fabric “skins” are being tested as a means for enhancing the strength properties of blade connections and other at-risk components of a turbine. Glass is frequently combined with other materials such as carbon fiber, ceramic, alumina, and even silicon carbide to create hybrid composites that are stiff, strong, and cost-effective.
Glass fiber is the backbone of the wind energy sector. Without the technical advantages of reinforced fiberglass, wind turbines would be prohibitively expensive, difficult to produce, and easily damaged.
B&W Fiberglass regularly works with clients in the wind energy space to develop cutting-edge solutions. Contact our team of experts today to find out how our products and capabilities may be able to add value to your energy project.