Powering the planet with polyurethanes

Powering the planet with polyurethanes

The transition to renewables requires bold and imaginative solutions. This is especially true in a world where a growing global population brings rising energy demands. Facilitating the rise of wind power as a key contributor to sustainable energy is more important now than ever before.

All eyes on wind power

Consumers worldwide are becoming increasingly conscious of the dangerous impact of increased energy consumption on the planet. Embracing eco-friendly products and more sustainable lifestyles, they are also looking for alternative types of energy that benefit planet and society.

Meanwhile, administrations, industries and businesses are investing in new technologies to boost sustainability. Conserving resources and reducing emissions are now a priority and environmentally neutral energy generation is becoming ever more urgent. In 2017, worldwide consumption of renewable energy came to just under 486.8 million metric tons of oil equivalent. Five years ago the figure was less than half that, at 238.7 million metric tons.

Wind power is one of the most sustainable technologies for generating electricity and is now the largest growing renewable energy source globally. As a key renewable energy source, it has a crucial role to play in helping meet rising demand, while reducing harmful emissions and providing a sustainable way to power homes and businesses, towns and cities. As noted in the GWEC Global Wind Report earlier this year: “Wind power is in a rapid transition to becoming a fully commercialized, unsubsidized technology; successfully competing in the marketplace against heavily subsidized fossil and nuclear incumbents.” Yet new solutions are required to enable wind power to expand further and achieve its true potential as one of the world’s main sources of energy.

An age-old solution?

Windmills are not new. In fact, the first-known wind power plants were built in Persia in the 7th century. They’ve come a long way since then, located both on- and off-shore and often collected in huge wind farms. In September the world’s largest offshore wind farm opened off the Cumbria coast in the UK; the Walney Extension is capable of generating 695 megawatts, enough green energy to power 600,000 homes.

As the farms grow in size and number, so the turbines themselves get bigger, improving power generating efficiency and lowering the cost of energy production.

But wind is not yet being fully exploited and wind power is still far from matching the efficiency levels of conventional energy sources. To be successful, tomorrow’s wind-power technology will have to be environmentally friendly and economical as well.

New possibilities are needed to overcome the manufacturing and economic challenges that prevent wind power from delivering on its potential to make a cleaner, brighter future a reality. Wind farms require new turbine technologies, taller turbines with longer blades and nacelles with smarter and more efficient generators.

Our role

This is where the potential of polyurethanes comes in. At Covestro, we’re striving to lower the production costs of renewable energy, tackle the risk of fuel poverty and help achieve global climate goals. By using innovative raw materials in numerous wind turbine components, we are helping wind blade and turbine producers better exploit the power of wind for the benefit of society as a whole.

At Covestro we have developed a special polyurethane (PU) resin that can be combined with glass fiber fabrics to create new composite materials. PU’s superior mechanical properties offer production benefits without compromising on production reliability and product quality, thus providing a valuable stimulus to the wind energy value chain. And the global market indicators for adoption of this novel technology continue to be very promising for the industry.

Boost your productivity with PU

    • Lower viscosity, faster infusion speed
    • Faster curing, improved productivity
    • Reduced exotherm, low composite temperature

 

Achieve superior performance with PU

    • Lighter, stronger and longer blades
    • Excellent mechanical performance
    • Superior fatigue resistance
    • Superior interface with glass fabric

 

“The wind industry is pushing the technical boundaries of the blade designers, blade manufacturers and specialty material suppliers, as the technical requirements for innovative raw materials become ever more challenging,” said Dirk Soontjens, Global Project Leader Wind at Covestro.

“We’ve been working diligently with global leaders in the industry to tailor the infusion resin technology to match their needs. Our global testing capacities, as well as our extensive collaboration with industry testing houses and institutes, demonstrates the unique performance of our polyurethane-based solutions.”

PU resin guarantees an excellent mechanical performance and other technical benefits that make the production process safer, faster and more cost effective. Blades account for around 20-30% of the cost of a wind turbine and around 10-15% of the total wind farm cost. So the quicker that wind blades can roll off the production line, the better.

“For Covestro, a manufacturer of high-tech polymer materials, the opportunity lies in innovative materials that can revolutionize the manufacturing of wind blades and change the game for wind power,” said Torsten Hagen, Head of Product Research Polyurethanes.
“We’ve all got a part to play in creating sustainable solutions to the most pressing issue of our age. At Covestro we’re using our technical expertise and market platform to help effect the changes our planet needs.”

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