ETI commissions project to develop blades over 90 metres long for next generation of offshore wind turbines

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A project to develop long high-performance blades for the next generation of large offshore wind turbines has been commissioned by the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI).

Developers will be asked to design, build and test blades in excess of 90 metres long – each blade will be nearly the same height of Big Ben.

These would be used on the next generation of large offshore wind turbines with a capacity of 8 – 10MW.

Blades that are currently deployed offshore are between 40 and 60 metres long.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne said: “Groundbreaking innovation is needed today to help create a low carbon future. This is why I’m pleased the ETI is asking inventors to come up with the wind turbines of tomorrow. Improving turbine performance will increase output and drive down costs, making it more economical to generate green energy. I am confident that business, industry and our best research brains take up the challenge.”

Dr David Clarke, ETI Chief Executive said: “The UK has some of the best offshore wind resources in the world, accessing this opportunity and generating electricity at competitive costs presents major engineering challenges and we need innovation in blade and turbine design and in installation technology to keep driving costs down.

“It has been estimated that the UK has over a third of the total European potential offshore wind resource. That is enough to power the country nearly three times over, but it needs to be harnessed efficiently and affordably if we are to make the most of that natural resource.

“This project is based on our earlier studies which identified that the most cost-effective size for a horizontal axis turbine is likely to be between 8 and 10 MW with significantly larger blades than scaling up current turbines would typically give.

“Along with improved system reliability, the impact of larger blades is a crucial factor in helping to bring down the costs of generating electricity by offshore wind which is why we are now seeking partners to develop and demonstrate these large-scale high performance blades.

“Increasing the roll-out of offshore renewable energy means improving the commercial case for investors by reducing costs and increasing energy yields.

“Investing in this project to develop much larger, more efficient blades is a key step for the whole industry in paving the way for more efficient turbines, which will in turn help bring the costs of generating electricity down.”

“Creating very long blades with the right stiffness and aerodynamic performance whilst maintaining an acceptable cost is going to be a huge challenge for the industry and is going to need the best design and manufacturing team we can assemble. The UK has world leading capabilities in advanced manufacturing and we expect to see the most competitive teams involved.”

The ETI expects to invest around £10m in the project.

A Request for Proposals (RfP) will be issued on Wednesday morning (18 May) for organisations wanting to get involved in the project. More details will be available at

The deadline for the notification of intention to submit a proposal is 17 June and the closing date is 27 July.

The aim of the project is for the first blades to be manufactured and tested by the end of 2014 ready for production scale-up to serve anticipated future demand.

The first stage of the project will focus on blade design and sizing for the next generation of large offshore wind turbines, the second stage will focus on establishing an efficient manufacturing process, with the third stage testing and verifying the prototype blade performance against the predictions made at the design stage.

The ETI is a public private partnership between six global industrial companies and the UK Government tasked with developing “mass scale” technologies that will help the UK meet its 2020 and 2050 energy targets. It is concerned with identifying affordable, sustainable and secure energy across heat, power, transport and the infrastructure that links them.

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