How are wind turbine materials changing?

One recent composite material provides a way to treat and modify the surface of fiberglass to create a chemical bond between the glass and a resin matrix. This material substitutes standard fiberglass with short micro-fibers.

The manufacturer says its liquid composites can be poured, pumped, or sprayed, and after curing can be drilled, tapped, and CNC machined. In addition, the material’s predictable properties allow calculating strength along with the design of more complex shaped components.

The most used metal in a wind turbine is steel in the tower and other components. But a few more recent material ideas deserve mention. For instance, one solution to the climbing cost of all copper wire is in copper- clad steel. It is said to be reliable, cost effective, and can provide the wind industry with a smarter alternative to copper-based grounding systems. The financial crisis has altered the trajectory of wind-farm projects by tightening developers’ budgets with a need to control costs, an increasing priority even as the industry expands.

A good grounding system plays a critical role guarding against catastrophic damage to blades, electronics, transformers, nacelles, and collector systems out to substations.

Until recently, copper has been the predominant material in wire and cable used to grounding of electrical systems. But the cost of copper fluctuates substantially. This is bad news for wind-farm developers, and electrical and construction contractors who are under increasing pressure to control costs.

Given the cost sensitivity of any wind-farm project, the idea of burying a precious metal (copper) underground makes little economic sense when less expensive, alternatives are readily available. Copper-clad steel has been around for decades and is a practical option to consider in grounding applications. It offers an alternative to copper by combining the strength of steel with the conductivity of copper through a cladding that delivers comparable performance.

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