The latest round of ARPA-E grants was just announced and among the 66 cleantech projects that received funding was GE’s latest wind technology development: fabric wind turbine blades. When I first read this, I was imagining something that looked like sails, but the structure of the blade will remain pretty much the same except instead of fiberglass, a super-strong architectural fabric will be wrapped around the blade frame.
According to GE, this swap will allow for turbine blades that perform just as well, but can be made on site for a much lower cost — up to 40 percent less. This slash in manufacturing cost could make wind energy cost competitive with fossil fuels without government subsidies.
From an energy generation standpoint, the use of fabric, which is lighter than fiberglass, would allow for the production of much longer blades. Longer blades can capture even more of the wind’s energy.