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Future rotor blade concept – development of segment, section and component testing

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Delivery of the rotor blades by ship

Fraunhofer IWES combines the expertise of its staff with a comprehensive testing infrastructure unmatched anywhere in the world. Since 2011, the research institute has been operating two rotor blade test rigs for blades of up to 70 metres and up to 90 metres in length. Despite the great successes and the global recognition enjoyed by IWES’s methods to test entire blades – including tests of two of the world’s longest rotor blades at more than 80 metres – it is already clear that the current procedure is reaching its limits as blade lengths continue to increase.

The aim of the project is to develop test methods to demonstrate the operational stability of future rotor blades, which will be very long and very elastic, in a scientific manner which also looks at commercial viability. In addition to the substantive development work, there will be a construction project to build the necessary infrastructure. The substantive work is focused on the operational stability of composite materials and the testing of the blade segments, blade sections and components. In addition there will be considerations of commercial viability and specific test rig planning for the next rotor blade generation with lengths exceeding 100 metres. In future, large rotor blades are to be split into two segments (“root” and “tip”), as these segments have a much higher natural frequency than the entire blade, meaning that the fatigue tests can be speeded up. In addition, the new segment tests are expected to deliver more, and more precise, results, increasing the quality and informative value of the blade tests.

The fields of research covered by Fraunhofer IWES embrace the entire spectrum of wind energy technology – from wind physics to feeding electricity into the grid. The institute offers industrial research services to companies like plant manufacturers, wind farm operators and energy suppliers and can deliver targeted cooperation on all technical issues relating to wind energy use. The funding project aims to support innovative companies as they will be able to use the IWES testing infrastructure. In particular, the shortening of the duration of the tests by means of the segment testing will benefit SMEs and speed up innovation cycles.