A new partnership could see American wind turbines benefitting from a blade protection concept field tested in tough offshore environments. Denver, Colorado-based Rope Partner has announced it will bring the technology to the USA following a deal with Edge Solutions of Scotland.
Edge Solutions has developed a blade protection shield called Armour Edge that gives turbine blades a predicted lifespan of more than two decades. Under normal conditions, the leading edges of wind turbine blades tend to get pitted by rain, hail, sand, dust, insects and ultraviolet light. The damage can become chronic over time, with 87 per cent of wind turbine blades in one survey by EDP Renewables of Portugal suffering from leading-edge erosion after 14 years of operation, and half showing severe signs of deterioration.
This leads to a gradual loss of performance that reduces the output from the turbine. A 2020 study found medium amounts of leading-edge erosion could reduce a wind turbine’s annual energy production by 1.8 per cent a year. Badly affected turbines could lose up to 4.9 per cent a year. Edge Solutions avoids this with a highly durable leading edge protection shield made of an ultra-tough thermoplastic material, developed by Ineos Styrolution of Germany, that has been installed on turbine blades in the Baltic and North Seas.
The metre-long Armour Edge shields are custom-formed to fit a given blade and can be quickly bonded in place by trained technicians. Although Edge Solutions expects them to last at least 20 years, there is evidence to suggest they could protect blades for much longer. A report by the UK Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult, a Glasgow-based technology and innovation research centre, found the Armour Edge could withstand 232 hours of accelerated rain erosion, equal to more than 53 years of exposure under field conditions.
“Feedback from technicians in Europe has been uniformly positive and we believe the durability of Armour Edge coupled with the speed and ease of installation will revolutionise the leading-edge erosion market,” said Edge Solutions managing director David Urch in a press release. “Rope Partner is an innovative company with a strong commitment to safety, innovation and training and we are working closely with their expert technicians to ensure they are fully trained in the application of Armour Edge. We look forward to seeing the rollout commence in the field.”
In the USA, Armour Edge shields will most likely be used in onshore wind farms to begin with as the country has been slow to install turbines offshore. Although the federal government is aiming to have 30 GW of offshore wind by 2030, the USA only has two projects in operation today, totalling 42 MW.
“This new collaboration with Edge Solutions underscores our ongoing commitment to deliver the highest quality services to our customers to maximize the value of their projects,” said Eric Stanfield, Rope Partner’s chief executive. “Based on Armour Edge’s success across Europe, we’re confident in the immense value these innovative shields will offer our US customers.”