Turbine blades force growth in materials demand

A report from AMI Consulting said the global demand for materials in the production of wind turbine blades grew by over 20% per annum in the last five years. The market for wind turbine blades has been one of the fastest growing of any composite application, with strong growth in Europe, North America and, more recently, Asia.

While global materials usage has risen strongly, there are uncertainties ahead and changing market dynamics. In many parts of the world governmental support for wind energy is weakening due to budgetary constraints with consequences both for generation capacity and the distribution network.

However, the long-term prospects remain encouraging. The report estimates the global composite blade market at €4 billion, of which approximately €1.5 billion was raw materials. The report quantifies the market, its structure, the status of the technology and the changes which are underway.

Increasing effort is being invested in designing blades for maximum power generation and this requires careful attention to material composition, material processing and of course overall design. The link between generating capacity, blade size and materials usage is discussed in detail in the report.

To maximise return on investment blades are getting longer and heavier, requiring greater quantities of raw materials. As blade length and weight increase beyond current norms, increased sophistication in blade design, materials and manufacture are required.

Justin Cunningham

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