On June 5-6, 2018, CIVS Senior Research Scientist John Moreland and graduate research assistant Kyle Toth joined a flurry of enthusiasm over new repair and inspection techniques, advanced materials application, and manufacturing and training processes in wind energy, at the NREL Advances in Wind Energy conference in Boulder, Colorado.
Through recognition gained from previous NSF ATE wind energy project work and conferences, including the 24th National ATE Principal Investigators Conference in Washington, DC, CIVS researchers were invited to present at and attend the two-day workshop, which was hosted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI), along with Composites One and other materials and technology distributors.
“There were a lot of process explorations and materials advancements being discussed, as well as presentations on both persistent, industry-wide problems and unusual, irregular cases,” Toth said. “In terms of wind energy workforce training, there was a lot to take in about cutting-edge techniques for repairing and building wind turbines and particularly blades; and related to that were expedited training regimens for older technicians to learn newer techniques. On the safety training side, which Jack and I were obviously interested in, there’s been more movement towards a mixed reality/VR setup, wherein trainees have to wear an actual harness and secure themselves, which limits mobility in a way that VR alone doesn’t. So the education process is continuing to evolve.
“On the industrial side, there’s been some movement away from having people build blades ‘by hand’ and adoption of automation in blade-building, and with more companies using drones to perform visual inspections of blade conditions and structural wear-and-tear, there’s also been an increased use of VR and simulation to train workers in drone operation to perform inspections.
“GE has plans to increase the physical size of their turbines for offshore wind power generation, with 107-meter-long blades. Collapsible scaffolding that can be set up on the blades themselves was one topic; the Top 8 Causes of Shutdowns was another. And there was a very interesting presentation on how a fire in a 737 airplane, where the fire involved new composites, resulted in certain chemical reactions that hadn’t been seen or investigated before. That was the irregular case.
“Given the near-constant flow of information while we were there, both to us and from us, it would be hard to gauge whether others benefitted from us as much as we benefitted from them.”
For more information about the CoMET NREL/IACMI wind technology facility, visit https://www.nrel.gov/wind/iacmi.html.