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Fabric-Based Wind Turbine Blades

General Electric (GE) Power & Water
ARPA-E Award: 
Fairfield, CT
Project Term: 
05/01/2013 to 12/31/2014
Project Status: 
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 
Wind power represents a small but rapidly growing contribution to the U.S. renewable energy portfolio. While the cost of wind power has decreased as a result of building at ever-larger scales, challenges such as manufacturing and transportation of large blades, expensive operations and maintenance, siting and transmission limitations, and higher energy costs from smaller scale turbines continue to hinder further deployment.
Project Innovation + Advantages: 
General Electric (GE) Power & Water is developing fabric-based wind turbine blades that could significantly reduce the production costs and weight of the blades. Conventional wind turbines use rigid fiberglass blades that are difficult to manufacture and transport. GE will use tensioned fabric uniquely wrapped around a spaceframe blade structure, a truss-like, lightweight rigid structure, replacing current clam shell wind blades design. The blade structure will be entirely altered, allowing for easy access and repair to the fabric while maintaining conventional wind turbine performance. This new design could reduce production costs by 70% and enable automated manufacturing while reducing the processing time by more than 50%. GE's fabric-based blades could be manufactured in sections and assembled on-site, enabling the construction of much larger wind turbines that can capture more wind with significantly lower production and transportation costs.
Potential Impact: 
If successful, GE's technology would lower the cost of electricity by enabling cost effective wind blades, helping the wind industry produce electricity as economically as fossil fuel energy based production.
Enabling electricity generation from alternative energy sources like wind can alleviate reliability and security concerns associated with the electric grid.
Facilitating the widespread use of clean energy reduces the level of greenhouse gases released by electric power generation across the U.S. each year.
Enabling alternative sources of energy like wind and solar can help stabilize the cost of electricity generation in the long run, which will ultimately benefit consumers.
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Bryan Willson
Project Contact: 
Dr. Qi Zhu
National Renewable Energy Laboratory
General Electric
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Release Date: