Whilst offshore wind technology continues to evolve and gain in efficiency, blade erosion has become a key challenge in order to remove market barriers for the blue economy. The EU-funded project LEAPWind has found a solution to prevent offshore blade erosion.
Wind energy is projected to be one of the main contributors to deliver a carbon-neutral EU by 2050. On 19 November 2020, the European Commission presented its Strategy on Offshore Renewable Energy with the aim to increase Europe's offshore wind capacity from its current level of 12 GW to at least 60 GW by 2030 and to 300 GW by 2050.
Continuing to improve offshore energy technology is important in order to deliver on these high ambitions. Whilst technological innovations allow now for larger turbines and higher rotation speed, this inevitably triggers the risk of severe blade erosion, further intensified by harsh weather conditions at sea. This constitutes a potential challenge to rapid market uptake of offshore wind.
The EU-funded project LEAPWind has been developed around three main objectives: firstly, using a new commercial leading-edge blade component with novel thermoplastic materials and innovative manufacturing processes to prevent blade erosion already at the manufacturing stage. Secondly, the more robust blades are meant then to increase the energy productivity of turbines, and finally, the use of those novel blades will also reduce high maintenance and repair costs. Operational tests are ongoing on an existing wind turbine in Portugal.
“Leading edge erosion drastically reduces the productivity of wind turbines, costing European operators at least €150m annually. LEAPWind is developing novel technology to address this problem,” said Tomas Flanagan, CEO of ÉireComposite.
By increasing productivity and reducing maintenance costs, investors’ confidence and better access to capital will follow too. Last but not least, the project not only boosts the renewable energy sector, but also generates new jobs in a coastal region where employment opportunities are limited, not least amidst the global Covid pandemic.
The project is supported by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) and implemented through a pan-European collaboration between the Irish company ÉireComposite, the Dutch company Suzlon, and the National University of Ireland Galway. LEAPWind represents a successful example of how the use of new technologies can scale up the blue economy sector, whilst supporting the EU’s transition to a low-carbon future.
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- Publication date
- 26 November 2020
- Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries