American Superconductor Corp. says it has acquired a 25% ownership ($8 million) in Blade Dynamics Ltd., a designer and manufacturer of advanced wind turbine blades based on proprietary materials and structural technologies. Founded in the United Kingdom in 2007, Blade Dynamics designs and develops wind turbine blades to increase the efficiency and performance of multi-megawatt wind turbines while also reducing costs. The Venture Capital group of Dow Chemical Co. also made a minority equity investment in the blade manufacturer.
Today’s 2-MW wind turbines require rotors with more than a 70-m (230 ft) diameter, and 5-MW turbines require rotors at least 120 m (360 ft) in diameter. Rotor diameter determines the swept area of a wind turbine’s blades. Ideally, wind turbines would be equipped with even larger-diameter rotors to maximize power output. But cost, weight, and transportation factors have limited the size of rotors, outweighing performance and efficiency benefits.
“Blade Dynamics has developed unique and proprietary structural designs and manufacturing methods aimed at overcoming critical barriers facing today’s wind industry,” says Blade Dynamics founder and CEO Paul Rudling. “Using advanced manufacturing processes, innovative structural designs, proven composite materials, and an advanced surface coating called Bladeskyn, our wind-turbine blades provide compelling performance and efficiency advantages for wind turbine manufacturers. Our company will use American Superconductor’s (AMSC’s) unique wind-turbine-design capabilities and business model as well as Dow’s composite materials to capitalize on the opportunities in front of us.”
“Design and manufacturing for wind turbine blades have remained fundamentally unchanged for 20 years,” says AMSC founder and CEO Greg Yurek. “Today, however, the market is migrating to higher power ratings for wind turbines. Onshore turbines exceed 2 MW in many locations, and offshore wind farm developers increasingly seek wind turbines with power ratings exceeding 5 MW. Blade Dynamics presents us – and the entire wind industry – with a wind-turbine-blade technology that enhances performance, and reduces weight and cost for high power wind turbines. We view this as a good investment and expect many wind turbine manufacturers, including our own AMSC Windtec licensees, to quickly migrate to the Blade Dynamics solution to avail themselves of these advantages. In fact, AMSC Windtec and Blade Dynamics engineers have already been working in close collaboration to improve blades for AMSC Windtec turbine designs.”
In addition to providing AMSC Windtec licensees with differentiated blades, the company expects its investment could expand the company’s sales opportunities with other wind turbine manufacturers around the world. The company also says that Blade Dynamics will provide blades for the company’s 10-MW SeaTitan superconductor wind turbines.
Encouraging the blade manufacturer to move close to the U.S. market, Louisiana Economic Development (LED) says it is providing an incentive package to help the U.K. firm establish and operate a manufacturing facility in New Orleans. This incentive package, worth up to $30 million, hinges on the company meeting certain capital investment and job creation milestones. Located at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility, the Blade Dynamics operation is expected to add at least 600 direct new jobs to the local economy over the next decade. Through Louisiana’s FastStart, LED will also provide workforce support including assistance with employee recruitment, screening, training development, and training delivery, for up to two years during the company’s employment ramp-up.
The Michoud Assembly Facility, an 832-acre site owned by NASA, is one of the largest manufacturing campuses in the world. NASA and Lockheed Martin have used this site for the construction of the Space Shuttle’s external fuel tanks for more than 30 years. Michoud is now a multi-tenant complex for other government agencies, government contractors, and commercial businesses, in addition to its core NASA work. In addition to its presence in New Orleans, Blade Dynamics plans to expand its operations in the U.K. as part of a long-term commitment to Europe’s offshore wind market.
American Superconductor Corp.