Carbon fiber reinforced polymers (carbon fiber composites) offer significantly enhanced mechanical properties compared to the more widely used glass fiber reinforced polymers, enabling the design and manufacture of larger, high energy capture wind turbine rotors. However, commercial carbon fiber materials are much costlier than glass fiber, hindering their broader adoption in the wind industry. Carbon fiber composites were originally designed and applied to military and aerospace applications where strength is paramount and cost was not a primary factor. Thus, significant opportunities exist to reduce the overall cost of incorporating carbon fiber materials into a wind turbine blade where cost is a primary factor. These opportunities range from changing the raw material inputs, fiber conversion processes, and formats of the carbon fiber itself, through the composite material forms (e.g. pultrusion, prepreg) used in the blade manufacturing process.
The magnitude of the wind-specific value improvement of novel carbon fiber materials is determined through characterization of carbon fiber material properties by performing mechanical testing and accurate cost modeling. The performance of study carbon fiber materials is assessed through blade system optimization studies for representative wind turbine reference models.
Sandia and its partners have performed research on novel carbon fiber materials to assess the commercial viability to develop cost-competitive carbon fiber composites specifically suited for the unique loading experienced by wind turbine blades. This work enables the continued reduction in the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) for wind turbines installed in the United States, including low wind resource and offshore sites, and has established routes for the broader adoption of carbon fiber materials in wind turbine blade design beyond existing commercial materials.
Contact: Brandon Ennis, (firstname.lastname@example.org)