Since 1989, Sandia has partnered with Montana State University (MSU) to test and report key data and trends of fiber-reinforced polymers (composites) and other materials used in the construction of wind-turbine blades. In 1989, the average wind turbine had a power rating of 0.225 MW and a rotor diameter of 27 m. By the end of 2013, industry averages had increased to a 1.87 MW turbine and a 97 m rotor diameter. This considerable growth in blade length has put increasingly difficult technical and economic demands on blade designers, requiring a constantly improving understanding of composite material behavior in realistic wind applications.
Sandia & MSU researchers have collected the results of over 12,000 tests into a publically available database and technical papers explaining key trends to meet this critical industry need. Recent work has focused on a variety of areas relevant to the industry including:
- commissioning of a substructure test facility to expand test capabilities beyond coupon testing which cannot easily capture the realistic and complex loading experienced by modern wind turbine blades;
- through-thickness laminate fatigue testing to complement existing 3D composite properties, which are an increasingly important to understand in the design of large blades; and
- testing and analysis of aligned-strand laminates as a new material form with potentially enhanced manufacturing advantages over current materials.
Related publications can be accessed from the Sandia Wind website and the Montana State University Composite Technologies Research Group website.