Wetzel Blade was awarded a 2014 Clean Energy Venture Award during the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s NREL Industry Growth Forum. The company won the honor for its work on a pre-fabricated, field-assembled turbine blade that boosts production capacity and outlasts current generation composite blades. The start-up company will receive in-kind commercialization support designed to help increase its chances of becoming commercially successful.
According to Wetzel Blade, the new blade technology is based on a space frame design and features independently fabricated pultruded FRP spars. The parts are sized for easy transport and field-assembly, in similar fashion to high reliability military equipment.
According to Kyle Wetzel, CTO/Founder of Wetzel Blade and a well-published expert in wind blade design, “This concept emerged from a project that our parent company, Wetzel Engineering, was involved with in China. We were engineering a 100-meter blade for a 10MW turbine and wanted to eliminate shell panel buckling as a design driver. The balsa requirements presented another challenge – almost 10,000 kg of this expensive core material absorbing ~6,000kg of epoxy.”
Wetzel noted that 3-5 percent of total installed cost of each turbine is logged to transportation. However, their technology reduces these costs. The company is currently in the structural testing phase with plans to demonstrate a sub-scale prototype in early 2015. The project has been partially funded through an SBIR/STTR award from the DOE.
“Because of our involvement with the entire turbine lifecycle, we understand that to make a real shift in the economics, a blade design must generate more electricity, cost less to build and maintain, and be more efficient to transport and install,” added Webzel. “The industry is hungry for a solution that delivers on all those points.”