The winds of change

Dr Sabrina Malpede

Dr Sabrina Malpede, chief executive of ACT Blade Ltd

I’ve blogged before about the growing size of wind farms and of individual turbines. Costs continue to fall and are projected to continue falling. Technical innovation is happening which may well increase each of these trends. The small Scottish start-up ACT Blade Ltd has developed a wind turbine blade that is lighter, stronger and cheaper than those used in existing turbines. The ACT team first developed expertise in designing racing sailing boats, and have transferred this learning to turbine blades. Instead of the usual steel blades requiring expensive moulds a carbon fibre and textile construction is used. The ACT turbine blades are, it is claimed, 50% lighter and 30% stiffer meaning that each turbine should produce 10% more energy, and that overall electricity should be produced at a cost 9% below what current turbines can deliver. Automated manufacturing and modular assembly should ensure much lower capital expenditure and faster progress from design to supply, so helping rapid establishment of the business and continued innovation.

This is an early stage start-up. They seem to have come up with some great ideas and developed the patents and done early stage trials, but as far as I can see have not yet developed any commercial scale electricity generation. I await news of this with interest, and hope to blog about it in due course.

One of the really exciting trends in cleantech innovation is demassification. We really can do more with less. Building things that use less material and energy in their construction should unlock multiple benefits. I’ve often mentioned the Riversimple hydrogen powered car which is a prime example, and this ACT wind turbine blade looks to be another. Innovation across the whole cleantech spectrum from hydrogen cars to better wind turbines, and of course, as I frequently blog about, most of all in solar energy, all point to the possibilities of a better future. (A future that is only possible if we can make the necessary innovations and improvements in our political and economic systems…but that’s for another blog!)

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