3M kicks off first in-field study of wind turbine blade erosion

3M and Rope Partner announced a new in-field study on how the erosion of the leading edge of wind turbine blades affects power output.

3M and wind turbine maintenance company Rope Partner announced on Monday a new in-field study on how the erosion of the leading edge of wind turbine blades affects power output.

The year-long study will be the first published work to put concrete figures on this kind of damage, which is widespread for wind turbine blades, 3M says.

Like the edge of a steak knife, the blades of a wind turbine can erode. As they rotate -- at speeds of up to 180 miles per hour at the blade tips -- outdoor conditions such as rain, hail and airborne sand can wreak havoc on the edge, damaging them and in turn, causing turbulence that negatively affects aerodynamics and reduces output.

"We’ve seen firsthand the damage caused by leading edge erosion when conducting our inspections for wind turbine maintenance and repairs,” said Chris Bley, director of business development for Rope Partner, in a statement. "We've seen sites where significant erosion occurs in a little as two years after installation."

The study is important because wind turbine maintenance is costly and thus of concern to investors. A unscheduled crane to access failed parts can run some $70,000; anything to cut down on emergency maintenance calls is effectively money in the bank.

3M's interest lies in its expertise with polyurethane tape, which it offers for application in the wind power and aerospace industries. One example: it's used on helicopter blades.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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