The Pflugerville Community Development Corporation (PCDC) announced Pflugerville-based Wetzel Engineering, Inc. was awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy at the 27th Annual National Renewable Energy Laboratory Industry Growth Forum for the revolutionary design of a new type of wind-turbine blade.
Wetzel received the award for the company's pre-fabricated, field-assembled wind-turbine blade, which is easier to transport and assemble than other blades, boosts production capacity and can outlast current designs. Currently, most fully assembled blades can reach 58-meters in length and require entire convoys of trucks and personnel to transport safely. The new Wetzel Blade could simplify the transportation process.
Wetzel CTO Kyle Wetzel says the design concept evolved from a project the company was involved with in China.
"We were engineering a 100-meter blade for a 10 MW turbine and wanted to eliminate shell panel buckling as a design driver," Wetzel said. "The balsa requirements presented another challenge—almost 10,000 kilograms of this expensive core material was absorbing approximately 6,000 kilograms of epoxy."
Wetzel said the new blade design could fill many market needs.
"Because of our involvement with the entire turbine lifecycle, we understand that to make a real shift in the economics, a blade design must generate more electricity, cost less to build and maintain, and be more efficient to transport and install," he said. "The industry is hungry for a solution that delivers on all those points."
The blade is still undergoing testing and a sub-scale model will reportedly be demonstrated next year. The project is funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.