According to the scientists, the world’s first quick testing facility for tidal turbine blades can expedite the development of marine energy technologies while decreasing costs and paving the way for business.
The ground-breaking technology of FastBlade will concentrate on test blades composed of composite materials. Such materials can resist harsh ocean conditions for almost two decades, and make use of considerably less energy compared to any other facility of its kind, states the team.
The £4.6 million facilities, which is based in Rosyth, Fife—officially opened by UK Government Minister for Scotland Malcolm Offord—intends to keep Scotland at the forefront of tidal energy development.
The 75-ton reaction frame of the facility has the potential to exert strong forces on turbine blades over a length of 50 ft. Blades are tested using a system of powerful hydraulic cylinders that can simulate the stresses placed on the structures over two decades at sea in less than three months.
It imitates the complicated forces to which tidal turbines are being exposed at sea with the help of special digital and hydraulic technology systems designed by engineers at the University of Edinburgh.
FastBlade’s technology can be used to test lightweight bridge sections and aircraft wing components in addition to tidal blades.
FastBlade will be the world’s first dedicated fatigue test facility for tidal turbine blades, and will help this emerging industry provide clean, reliable renewable energy at a reasonable cost to consumers.
Conchúr Ó Brádaigh, Professor and Head, School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh
Brádaigh added, “The facility will also help maintain the globally leading position of Scottish tidal turbine developers in the race to find sources of clean and secure power, as well as confirming the societal impact of the University of Edinburgh’s research and development efforts in marine renewable energy.”
By offering developers improved data on how tidal turbine blades tend to decline with time, the research group believes in helping to improve the design of highly durable and efficient structures. Also, FastBlade will provide client businesses and engineering students and apprentices the opportunity to develop their digital and data skills in its advanced research center.
It is known to be the first facility to open in a recently launched multi-partner innovation center at Babcock’s Rosyth site.
The Arrol Gibb Innovation Campus (AGIC) will function with companies in the marine, nuclear power, and energy-transition sectors to convert large-scale manufacturing via innovation and skills development.
Today marks a real milestone for all of us involved in the FastBlade partnership. We’ve taken a vision of technological innovation and together we’ve built a ground-breaking engineering construct that can carry out large-scale accelerated testing of structural composites in a more sustainable way.
Neil Young, Engineering Director, Babcock International Group PLC
Young added, “Collaborations like this are fundamental to help us and the wider engineering industry create more research opportunities and secure longer-term investment into digital and data skills—an area that is significantly growing in demand for Babcock and our customers.”
Young continues, “We believe the research arm of this facility will generate real interest from students looking to learn more about sustainable technology and I’m really looking forward to working with the teams to support that skills agenda and see where this takes us into the future.”
FastBlade is a collaboration between the University and the engineering company Babcock International. It is aided by a £1.8 million grant from the UK Government through the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).
The facility, financially supported by EPSRC and the University, has received help from Edinburgh Innovations, the University’s commercialization service, throughout its development.
The UK Government is delighted to support this rapid test facility with £1.8m from EPSRC, as part of UK Research and Innovation. Crucially, it will speed up the rollout of equipment that will capitalize on sustainable tidal power and underline Scotland's place as a world leader in offshore renewables technology.
Malcolm Offord, UK Government Minister for Scotland
Offord added, “This test site, born from innovative research at the University of Edinburgh and engineering firm Babcock, will not only aid the UK's Net Zero ambitions, it will support thousands of skilled energy sector jobs as we transition to a more sustainable future.”