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Wind turbine blades are subjected to a higher number of complex loading cycles not experienced in other applications of composite structures. These loads can lead to structural failure through various mechanisms such as a crack initiated at a flaw or structural detail such as an adhesive joint. Predicting how blade materials will behave under realistic loading and environmental conditions and how damage initiates and progresses is critical information which enables designers, manufacturers and materials developers to improve blade manufacturing, performance and cost leading to a lower cost of energy.
Learn more at the Blade Materials & Substructures Testing webpage.
Sandia’s Wind Energy Technologies department works to improve wind-turbine blade manufacturing quality and determine the most cost-effective methods to mitigate environmental damage.
Learn more at the Blade Reliability & Composite Materials webpage.
Blade reliability is one of the most costly elements of plant installation and operation because blade failure can cause extensive down time and lead to expensive repairs. The manufacturing process can be a significant source of defects due to the complicacy of producing very large composite structures with inexpensive materials and processes. Blades can also be damaged during the transportation and installation process. Finally, wind turbines operate in harsh environments where wind-blown particulates cause surface erosion and lightning strikes can sometimes destroy blades. The summary effect of these issues is that blades have been responsible for 11% of turbine downtime in recent years, which is the third largest source of any component. Furthermore, the amount of downtime attributed to blade failure has increased over the past few years, and it is anticipated that as rotors continue to grow to larger sizes, blade reliability issues could become more prominent.
Learn more at the Blade Reliability Collaborative webpage.
Defects in wind–turbine blades are site, material, and blade specific and have been shown to have a wide range of effects depending on their location, material, type, and size. Furthermore, detecting defects in thick, multiple-material laminates has proven to be challenging using off-the-shelf inspection equipment developed for other industries.
Learn more at the Manufacturing Supply Chain webpage.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind Energy Technologies Office and Water Power Technologies Office have funded Sandia National Laboratories and its partner, Montana State University, to conduct extensive testing and analysis on wind turbine blades and materials for marine hydrokinetic (MHK) devices in support of the industry and research communities.
Learn more about the Materials Database.
Building on a foundation of analysis capabilities, methods, and industry partnerships established in the Continuous Reliability Enhancement for Wind (CREW) Database and the Blade Reliability Collaborative (BRC), as well as incorporating Sandia’s high-performance computing (HPC) resources and expertise, this work fosters the emergence and establishment of standards that influence wind turbine design, wind industry data collection and storage techniques, and analysis methods.
Learn more at the Reliability, O&M, Standards Development webpage.
One of the key challenges facing the industry is to develop reliable methods to detect damage in the rotor blades—and to detect them early enough to improve operations and repair/maintenance decisions leading to reduced costs and increased revenues. Sandia is addressing this challenge by performing research in the areas of structural health monitoring and prognostics management. The principal motivation of this research is to reduce operations and maintenance (O&M) costs, improve wind-plant reliability, and reduce downtime. A particular focus is to mitigate the large rise in costs for offshore O&M due to access difficulty, weather, high sea states, etc. using structural health monitoring and prognostics management.
Learn more at the Structural Health Monitoring webpage.