Wind Energy

GE has announced its intent to purchase LM Wind Power, a Denmark-based manufacturer and supplier of rotor blades to the wind industry.

The deal, which is expected to be worth $1.65 billion will improve GE’s ability to increase its energy output and create value for onshore and offshore customers. Since 2001, LM Wind Power has been owned by Doughty Hanson, a London-based private equity firm.

The acquisition is valued at 8.3 times pro forma earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) (2016 estimate). The transaction is subject to customary regulatory and governmental approvals and GE expects to close the transaction in the first half of 2017. GE expects the acquisition to be accretive to earnings in 2018.

As the cost of electricity from renewable sources continues to decline and nations pursue low-carbon forms of energy, renewable sources are gaining share in power generation capacity. In 2015, approximately 50% of all new electricity capacity additions were renewable energy sources, with wind representing 35% of that growth.

Following the closing of the deal, GE intends to operate LM Wind Power as a standalone unit within GE Renewable Energy and will continue to fully support all industry customers with the aim of expanding these relationships. GE will also retain the ability to source blades from other suppliers. LM Wind Power will continue to be led by its existing management team and be headquartered in Denmark, where it also maintains a global technology centre.

Fraunhofer researchers have partnered with industry experts to develop highly durable thermoplastic foams and composites that make the blades lighter and recyclable

Offshore wind turbines are becoming ever larger, and the transportation, installation, disassembly and disposal of their gigantic rotor blades are presenting operators with new challenges.

The trend toward ever larger offshore wind farms continues with some rotor blades measuring up to 80 metres in length with rotor diameters of over 160 metres. Since the length of the blades is limited by their weight, it is essential to develop lightweight systems with high material strength.

The lower weight makes the wind turbines easier to assemble and disassemble, and also improves their stability at sea. In the EU’s WALiD (Wind Blade Using Cost-Effective Advanced Lightweight Design) project, scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology ICT in Pfinztal are working closely with ten industry and research partners on the lightweight design of rotor blades. By improving the design and materials used, they hope to reduce the weight of the blades and thus increase their service life.

These days, rotor blades for wind turbines are largely made by hand from thermosetting resin systems. These, however, don’t permit melting, and they aren’t suitable for material recycling. At best, granulated thermoset plastic waste is recycled as filler in simple applications.

Florian Rapp, the project coordinator at Fraunhofer ICT said;

In the WALiD project, we’re pursuing a completely new blade design. We’re switching the material class and using thermoplastics in rotor blades for the first time. These are meltable plastics that we can process efficiently in automated production facilities.

For the outer shell of the rotor blade, as well as for segments of the inner supporting structure, the project partners use sandwich materials made from thermoplastic foams and fibre-reinforced plastics. In general, carbon-fibre-reinforced thermoplastics are used for the areas of the rotor blade that bear the greatest load, while glass fibres reinforce the less stressed areas. For the sandwich core, Rapp and his team are developing thermoplastic foams that are bonded with cover layers made of fibre-reinforced thermoplastics in sandwich design. This combination improves the mechanical strength, efficiency, durability and longevity of the rotor blade.

The ICT foams provide better properties than existing material systems, thus enabling completely new applications – for instance in the automotive, aviation and shipping industries. In vehicles, manufacturers have been using foam materials in visors and seating, for example, but not for load-bearing structures.

The current foams have some limitations, for instance with regard to temperature stability, so they can’t be installed as insulation near the engine. Meltable plastic foams, by contrast, are temperature stable and therefore suitable as insulation material in areas close to the engine. They can permanently withstand higher temperatures than, for example, expanded polystyrene foam (EPS) or expanded polypropylene (EPP). Their enhanced mechanical properties also make them conceivable for use in door modules or as stiffening elements in the sandwich composite.

Yet another advantage is that thermoplastic foams are more easily available than renewable sandwich core materials such as balsa wood. These innovative materials are manufactured in the institute’s own foam extrusion plant in Pfinztal.

The process involves melting the plastic granules, mix a blowing agent into the polymer melt and foam the material. The foamed, stabilised particles and semi-finished products can then be shaped and cut as desired. In the area of foamed polymers, the ICT foam technologies research group covers the entire thermoplastic foams production chain, from material development and manufacture of extrusion-foamed particles and semi-finished products to process media and finished components.

The researchers will be presenting a miniature wind turbine made from the new foams and composites at the K 2016 trade fair in Düsseldorf from October 19 to 26.

Siemens will receive newly issued shares of the combined company and will hold 59% of the share capital while Gamesa’s existing shareholders will hold 41%. As part of the merger, Siemens will fund a cash payment of €3.75 per share, which will be distributed to Gamesa’s shareholders (excluding Siemens) immediately following the completion of the merger (net of any ordinary dividends paid until completion of the merger). The cash payment represents 26% of Gamesa’s unaffected share price at market close on January 28, 2016.

Additionally Gamesa and Areva have entered into contractual agreements whereby Areva waives existing contractual restrictions in Gamesa’s and Areva’s offshore wind joint venture Adwen simplifying the merger between Gamesa and Siemens. As part of these agreements, Gamesa – in alignment with Siemens-grants Areva a put option for Areva’s 50% stake and a call option for Gamesa’s 50% stake in Adwen. Both options expire in three months. Alternatively, Areva can in this time divest 100% of Adwen to a third party via a drag-along right for Gamesa’s stake.

The new company, which will be consolidated in Siemens’ financial statements, is expected to have on a pro forma basis (last twelve months as of March 2016) a 69 GW installed base worldwide, an order backlog of around €20 billion, revenue of €9.3 billion and an adjusted EBIT of €839 million. The combined company will have its global headquarters in Spain and will remain listed in Spain. The onshore headquarters will be located in Spain, while the offshore headquarters will reside in Hamburg, Germany, and Vejle, Denmark.

The two businesses are highly complementary in terms of global footprint, existing product portfolios and technologies. The combined business will have a global reach across all important regions and manufacturing footprints in all continents. Siemens’ wind power business has a strong foothold in North America and Northern Europe, and Gamesa is well positioned in fast-growing emerging markets, such as India and Latin America, and in Southern Europe. Further, the transaction will result in a product offering covering all wind classes and addressing all key market segments to better serve customers’ needs.

Covestro has manufactured the first polyurethane rotor blade for wind turbines in Asia.

The 37.5 metre-long rotor blade, designed for wind turbines with an output of 1.5 megawatts was fabricated with a special polyurethane infusion resin using a vacuum pressure infusion system with continuous degassing.

Polyurethane resins have very good physical properties, an excellent flowability and it thoroughly wets the glass fibres. Furthermore the company went on to say that less thermal energy is released during its processing than with traditional epoxy resins.

The resin was developed in close collaboration between the Covestro Wind Competence Centre in Denmark and the Polymer Research Development Centre (PRDC) of Covestro in Shanghai. Covestro researcher Dr. Chenxi Zhang recently presented the new development at the China Summit Forum 2016 for International Wind Power Composite Materials in Zhejiang.

In the latest report on the Chinese government’s progress, Prime Minister Keqiang Li called for a higher percentage of clean energy, a move that would encourage the further expansion of wind power systems in China. In this year alone, China is expected to add more than 30 gigawatts to its installed wind power capacity.

Altair has announced its support for the Vortex Bladeless project by providing free engineering services and training.

Vortex Bladeless was founded in 2013 as an R&D company, exclusively dedicated to the development and marketing of Vortex, a multi-patented bladeless electric wind generator. The project focuses on the development of generators able to capture the kinetic wind energy by ‘vortex shedding’ and transform it into electricity.

This new technology seeks to overcome issues related to traditional wind turbines such as maintenance, amortization, noise, environmental impact, logistics, and visual aspects. Currently, the company’s focus is on the development of small wind products, with mass power generation devices planned for the future.

The collaboration started with a technical project to simulate the aerodynamic behaviour of the device. For this the Altair engineers performed a fluid-structure interaction study. Following these new batch of tests engineers were able to predict the movement of the vortex bladeless device with different wind intensities.

With the final Vortex Bladeless product the engineers expect to reduce manufacturing costs by 53%, operating costs by 51%, and maintenance costs by as much as 80% compared to traditional wind turbines.

Researchers at the DreamWind project are looking to develop a chemical substance that will separate composite materials from each other, allowing fibreglass components used in wind turbines to be recycled.

Denmark’s Aarhus University will collaborate with partners including Vestas and the Danish Technological Institute to develop new composite materials for wind turbine blades.

Associate Professor Mogens Hinge of Aarhus University’s department of engineering said;

Components made of fibreglass have to go through a difficult procedure before they can be reused, this entails separating the glass from the plastic, and you can only do this if you heat the material for a long time at 600 degrees Celsius, which is far from profitable from both an energy and an economic point of view.

Because it’s almost virtually impossible to recycle the composite materials used, old wind turbine blades are taken to enormous graveyards where the components are crushed and buried in landfill

According to researchers, the acute problem in the wind turbine industry inspired them to develop a solvent with the opposite properties, so that instead of binding materials to each other, it can separate them chemically with limited or no heating at all.

The idea is that the glass should be reused when it has been cleaned – for new fibreglass components for structures such as wind turbines, aircraft or cars. The researchers are initially focusing on designing an agent for fibreglass, and they say the first laboratory results are promising.

Innovation Fund Denmark has invested a total of 17.6 million Danish Krones (approximately $2.67 million) in the project, which, in the long run, can influence the recycling of composite materials outside the wind turbine industry. The parties expect to be ready with a chemical compound for separating fibreglass within four years.

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