Since 2002 AEL has been developing a wealth of experience in design and manufacture of tidal turbine blades. Due to worldwide interest by tidal turbine developers, AEL decided to apply its expertise and develop this business to provide a specialist composite tidal turbine blade design, development and manufacture service. This has focused R&D on reliable design, efficient use of materials and minimising development and production costs:
Effective materials selection and establishment of a comprehensive materials database.
Research into the effects on materials of long-term immersion in seawater.
Investment in our design & analysis capability (FEA and other design tools).
Investigating and meeting the standards and safety factors applied by the certification authorities.
Development of composite tooling and production techniques.
Investment in production and tooling equipment.
Certification Authorities, without adequate and reliable data, will always require a conservative approach to design. Even then, particularly in the case of design details, fatigue life is extremely difficult to predict without specific testing.
AEL’s continuing R&D follows the typical ‘pyramid’ test scheme, which is the standard approach to structural qualification when developing safety critical or high value composite structures. By taking this approach, AEL’s materials database and design detail knowledge means that confidence and efficiency of design is increased and component costs are reduced.
Currently, a certified standard does not exist for the design/manufacture of Tidal Turbine Blades. AEL has drawn upon existing standards for Wind Turbines, Offshore Structures and its own world leading experience to formulate an internal ‘Design Methodology’ document.
The majority of the data and knowledge collected is directly transferable to other renewable energy projects and beyond.
DNV is currently overseeing the AEL R&D programme to ensure acceptable standards are used and reliable data is developed.
Scaling up manufacture
These programmes will accelerate the technology, further minimise R&D expenditure on background testing and minimise the capital cost of blade development providing reliable data to ensure that fatigue life is achieved, and scheduled and unscheduled maintenance minimised. Upon this solid base, we are ready to move the tidal industry into the next phase.
At a steady pace, tidal energy technology is maturing towards proven and qualified products. This development brings demand for industrial manufacture. To meet this demand, AEL was acquired by Airborne, which has experience and a strong focus on industrial manufacture of composites solutions.