Sunday, 4 April 2010

A Shared Opportunity: Wind Energy and Aerospace

I recently had a number of interesting discussions with government trade and investment organisations where the interaction between composite technology in the aerospace sector and the requirements of the renewable energy sector were raised. It seems there are emerging opportunities in the renewable sector for companies that have developed capabilities in the design and construction of composite materials for the aerospace sector.

The next generation of wind turbines is looking like it will be even larger than the last, especially those being installed offshore. This means that the current system for building this turbines (similar to that for boats and cars) will need to be improved. The current processes can leave small imperfections in the blades which can lead to early failure with some reports suggesting up to 80% of blade failure can be attributed to poor production standards. Given the work that has gone into composite production both for the F-35 (Joint Strike Fighter) and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner it is unsurprising that opportunities for cross pollination exist. What is surprising is that very few aerospace companies realise this opportunity exists, I also wouldn't mind betting that the Wind Power sector does not know the Aerospace sector has been working on these design/production issues for years.

Perhaps this is a situation where support from government, industry associations and research institutions could save the Wind Power sector from 'reinventing the wheel' and could increase business for some Aerospace companies.

Would be interesting to know how many other opportunities like this exist in other sectors.

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