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Wind Turbine blades: Progress and challenges
2016-08-04 16:14:02

The past year was exceptional for the world wind energy market, as wind-generated electricity continued to increase its share of the overall electric power supply base. The global wind power industry grew about 16 percent in 2012, adding 45 GW of new capacity. This increased total capacity to 285 GW, or about 2.62 percent of the world’s electricity, according to statistics published by online energy market news aggregator TheEnergyCollective.com. In the U.S., 6 GW of new capacity was installed in 2012, 19 percent more than in 2011. Wind turbines now account for roughly 3.4 percent of all electricity generated in the U.S. With the Jan. 1, 2013, extension of the federal Production Tax Credit, the U.S. is expected to add 5 GW of wind-generated electricity this year.

Despite the ongoing expansion of wind power, the wind energy industry’s mandate to innovate has never been greater. Its ability to compete with other renewable and nonrenewable sources of energy and the continued growth and profitability of turbine manufacturers and suppliers depend on it. Areas of concern include better ways to enhance not only the mechanical and aerodynamic performance of turbine blades but also their weatherability and resistance to environmental elements. It is also incumbent on the industry to explore ways to reduce the radar signature of wind farms — an issue that has resulted in delays or cancellations of some farm installations. Last, there is a sense of urgency about mitigating the cost of manufacturing, installing and metering wind turbines in anticipation of what many experts predict will inevitably be a subsidy-free, level energy playing field.