The United Kingdom has begun work on an offshore blade composites project

BEIS is funding a flagship £5 million, 20-month project that will lay out a precise pathway for using new composite-based components in the next generation of offshore wind turbines.

The Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult and the National Composites Centre (NCC), which is part of the High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult, will collaborate on the Joule Challenge Phase 2 project.

The goal of the research is to show that composite materials can provide “substantial performance and light-weighting options” that will be “important” in solving the technological difficulty of constructing a wind turbine platform that is larger than 20MW.

Engaging with the UK composite and offshore wind sectors to gather market knowledge and explore the possibility for how these next-Generation components may be manufactured and delivered, with a focus on boosting the content of UK supply chains, is a significant component of the project.

The Joule Challenge’s first phase, which ended in 2020, demonstrated the importance of composite materials in enabling the next generation of offshore wind turbines. Phase 1 forecasted “significant reductions” in component masses of up to 60% and embedded carbon reductions of up to 55%.

Phase 2 of the project will focus on developing concept components that take advantage of current UK capabilities by using high-value manufacturing and Design skills.

It will also help the Offshore Wind Sector Deal’s goals of lowering energy costs through lower-cost manufacturing, enhancing UK content, and producing £60-80 million in annual export potential by 2030.

“We expect that a 20MW prototype, containing greater amounts of UK content and employing lightweight composite materials, such as those developed for advanced aerospace constructions, may be created by 2025,” stated Tom Wildsmith, business development manager at ORE Catapult.

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“These next-Generation turbines will be critical in providing the offshore wind capacity required to fulfill the UK’s net-zero ambitions, and there is also a major economic opportunity to be seized by developing a UK manufacturing capability.”