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Blades Research Hub to support development of next generation turbine blades

Example of a composite material, which will be a focus of the WBRH research agenda and ORE catapult’s 100m blade test facility

Press release issued: 21 June 2017

A £2.3 million research partnership between the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult and the University of Bristol could help unlock larger and more powerful wind turbines than ever before.

Forming the Wind Blade Research Hub (WBRH), the five-year partnership has its sights set on building more efficient blades that harness more energy from the wind, which will prove crucial as the industry prepares to nearly double the power of offshore wind turbines, from 8MW today to 13-15MW by 2025.

Dr Stephen Wyatt, ORE Catapult's Research and Disruptive Innovation Director, said: "Producing a 13MW turbine means blades reaching 100m in length – something which pushes current technology to the very limit.

"As such, these longer blades will need to be constructed using new designs, materials and new construction and manufacturing processes – and these new blades will need to be tested and validated. The WBRH provides a mechanism for pulling all of these different strands together.

"With world-leading composites expertise, over 150 researchers dedicated to everything from aerodynamics and blade design, to materials and manufacturing, the University of Bristol is the ideal partner with whom to take forward this work."

Phase one of the industry-leading programme of strategic research and development will investigate blade materials and manufacturing technology, blade integrity, blade design and performance.

It is also expected that the WBRH will provide a blueprint for future industry/academic collaborations in areas such as electrical infrastructure, foundations and powertrains.

The Hub will be supported by a group of PhD and EngD students, a post-doctoral researcher and a lecturer from the University of Bristol, working alongside the Catapult's blades research team.  Professor Paul Weaver and Dr Alberto Pirrera from the University of Bristol – as Scientific Director and Senior Academic of the WBRH respectively – will oversee the Hub's operation alongside ORE Catapult's Head of Strategic Research, Paul McKeever.

Paul Weaver, Professor in Lightweight Structures in the Department of Aerospace Engineering, and a member of Bristol Composites Institute (ACCIS), a newly created Specialist Research Institute (SRI), said: "This unique opportunity to partner with the Catapult came at just the right time for us. Our University has made a strategic commitment to grow all aspects of research associated with sustainability, and participating in the WBRH enables us to pursue that strategy.

"The Hub will also enable us to develop the people and the elite technical skills that the industry needs. We hope that many of our postgraduate students will go on to forge careers in the industry, and that the University will have an impact in influencing the future strategic research agenda in this area."

Dr Wyatt added: "We already have two significant blade manufacturing facilities in the UK – Siemens in Hull and MHI Vestas on the Isle of Wight – and we believe that the Hub can play an integral role in linking those facilities and their manufacturers back into the technical expertise, research activity and testing assets of the Hub's partners."

Further information

About the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult
ORE Catapult was established in 2013 by the UK Government and is one of a network of Catapults set up by Innovate UK in high growth industries. It is the UK's flagship technology innovation and research centre for advancing wind, wave and tidal energy.

It helps to reduce the cost of offshore renewable energy, supporting the growth of the industry and creating UK benefit. It does this by having an experienced engineering and research team with a deep knowledge and understanding of offshore renewables; being an independent and trusted partner; and working with industry and academia to identify, prove and de-risk promising new technologies and bring them to market.

The economic opportunity for the UK is immense, with the potential for huge employment, GVA and exports of technology, skills and services, potentially mirroring the success of the oil and gas sector over the past thirty years.

The Catapult programme represents a £1.4bn funding commitment from the public and private sector over five years. Long term, the Catapult will be funded 1:1:1 by central government, the private sector and other sources of funding such as the EU and devolved Governments.

About Bristol Composites Institute (ACCIS)
Bristol Composites Institute (ACCIS) is one of seven newly created Specialist Research Institutes (SRIs) designed to reflect Bristol's strength and depth in key specialisms.  We lead the way in composites education and research, combining cutting edge fundamental science with strong industrial links for technology transfer.

Advanced composite materials are critical to reducing weight, energy consumption and COgeneration for transport applications. They also enable novel and multi-functional structural designs. They are formed by combining two or more materials to create an advanced material with significantly improved properties. Composites also enable novel and multi-functional structural designs.

As a global leader in composites research and application, the University of Bristol has the strength to make composites in the UK an exemplar of how research and industrial engagement should be done.

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