DOE’s Sandia National Laboratories and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, along with Montana State University, recently completed a two-year, WETO-funded study that demonstrates the commercial viability of cost-competitive carbon fiber composites selected for use in wind turbine blades. The team has characterized a heavy-tow textile carbon fiber with improved cost-specific mechanical properties in modulus and compressive strength compared to a commercial baseline carbon fiber common to the wind industry. Analysis showed commercial viability and system-level benefits for using carbon fiber composites to reduce overall cost of wind energy and manufacture long, slender wind turbine blades. The project revealed a 25% blade mass reduction when using carbon fiber spar caps compared to fiberglass. While wind manufacturers have historically avoided using carbon fiber due to its higher cost, the novel textile-based carbon fiber material used for spar caps in this study cost 40% less than commercial carbon fiber—potentially enabling the broader adoption of carbon fiber materials in wind turbine blade design with the potential to reduce system costs. There has been substantial industry interest and active engagement throughout this project, ranging from turbine OEMs and blade manufacturers to material suppliers.

Researchers from DOE’s Sandia National Laboratories and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Montana State University, will share test results and project progress at a pre-conference seminar Tuesday, Nov. 19, at the CompositesWorld Carbon Fiber Conference, Nov. 19–21 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Also on Tuesday, Nov. 19, attendees have the option to tour Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s 42,000 square foot Carbon Fiber Technology Facility and 110,000 square foot Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (registration required by Nov. 5).