‘Road map’ planned for 2023 to pull lighter, low-carbon composites into offshore wind designs

A £5 million, 20-month programme, funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) through its Net Zero Innovation Portfolio (NZIP), has been announced as the next step in developing manufacturing capability for offshore wind. It will result in a detailed roadmap for incorporating new composite-based components.
Phase 1 of the Joule Challenge, completed in 2020, showed that composite materials in turbines could reduce component masses by 60% and reduce embedded carbon by up to 55%. It produced a Technology Development Plan for a 20MW demonstration turbine, using the UK’s expertise in high-value design and manufacture, with lessons from the aerospace industry.
Now Phase 2 will focus on developing concept components and lowering the cost of manufacturing.
New Power was also told that ‘whole life’ considerations were ‘built in’ to the programme. All materials and manufacturing processes will consider recycling, including carrying out lifecycle assessments of the processes and materials used. The groups will evaluate whether recycled materials, such as existing end of life blades, can be used as feedstocks. “This isn’t a core requirement – but we see a potential value add to the UK supply chain and decreased embedded carbon,” a spokesperson said.
The Joule Challenge Phase 2 project will be delivered by the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult and the National Composites Centre (NCC).
Tom Wildsmith, business development manager with ORE Catapult, said; “We predict that a 20MW prototype, incorporating increased levels of UK content and using lightweight composite materials, such as those that have been developed for advanced aerospace structures could be built by 2025.
“These next-generation turbines will be vital in providing the offshore wind capacity needed to meet the UK’s net-zero targets and there is a huge economic opportunity to be grasped too, through building a UK manufacturing capability.”
James Lightfoot, senior technology programme manager at NCC said; “The opportunity for more local content could be applied right across the turbine and provides a huge opportunity for UK companies to supply and manufacture these major components in a sustainable manner, thereby securing the UK as the world-leader in offshore wind turbine design and manufacture.”
Minister for Industry Lee Rowley said: “We are ensuring we have the manufacturing base to match our position as a trailblazer for clean renewable energy. This funding will help attract further investment, job and export opportunities to push forward our ambitious offshore wind programme.”