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Scientists Look at Ways to Extend the Lifespan of Turbine Blades

22 Jan 12:00 by Steve Walia

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Wind power is already a huge success story, with the UK a global leader in the field and already breaking records for the technology's clean use. Now wind energy is the cheapest form of electricity generation in Britain, which receives around 40pc of Europe's total winds, making it ideally placed to benefit from the technology. Other windy parts of the world are experiencing the same benefits, with plenty of scope for further adoption and growth in the field.

One of the main drivers towards adoption has been the development of the turbine technology, which has been developed to maximise use of available wind. At the same time, the size and height of installations have been optimised to take local factors into account. Combined with advances in solar energy, battery and other types of energy storage, damaging fossil fuels and also nuclear power are is becoming increasingly redundant.

But now scientists will need to turn their attention to the issue of turbine lifespan. When blades are spinning at heights of 40 metres above sea or water level, in all conditions, robust materials and construction materials are needed to ensure that they can operate fully and effectively for two to three decades before replacements are needed.

Alongside the strength of the wind itself, turbines must be able to withstand constant attack from dust particles, other airborne matter and the degrading effects of UV light. Because microorganisms can live on nearly any kind of service, the blades must also be incredibly smooth to ensure that organisms cannot start to build up on them. The ongoing issue of bird, bat and animal safety is also a problem, and researchers are working hard to understand the long-term impact of turbine blades and to implement protective life-extending measures.