New major innovation project to bring down the prices on wind energy

1. June 2021

Wind turbine manufacturers Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy and Vestas are teaming up with Force Technology, DTU Wind Energy and Baettr to develop a new method for welding the components for wind turbines, which could become a “game changer” for the entire industry.

The innovation project WeldCast has been facilitated by Energy Cluster Denmark and will develop a new technology that will make it possible to weld the large elements in cast iron.

“If successful, it will have a massive impact on the entire industry. There are several areas where it will have an almost revolutionary effect,” Søren Gothil Hansen, Vice President, Force Technology, told EnergyWatch.

The project will benefit the entire wind sector, so that the normal competitors cooperate in the project:

“If we just developed a new welding method with Force Technology and patented, the rollout would be extremely difficult. We in the industry have started to cooperate more, as common standards and technologies bring the price of electricity from wind turbines even further down. In some areas we are competitors, but on the components and technologies that we all use, it gives the entire industry a competitive advantage over, for example, solar when we come together,” Per Hessellund Lauritsen, offshore research director for Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, told EnergyWatch.

Today, a wind turbine must last for at least 20 years, which places great demands on the quality of, among other things, the nacelle, where some of the load-bearing parts are made of cast iron. Due to the high-quality requirements, it is not possible today to correct any casting errors of the large elements with welding.

“Due to the high-quality requirements, today we have to cast a completely new element if there is an error in the casting. If we can find new methods of welding with a proven high quality, it both reduces costs and benefits the environment. We hope to develop both new welding methods as well as methods to carry out inspections of these. Welding is thus also expected to be used as a joining technique on-site. It can mean a game changer for the entire industry.” says Ingo Boysen, Vice President Technology, Baettr A/S.

DTU Vind is also participating in the project to develop new technologies.

“DTU can with specialized X-ray tomography equipment find porosities in welds that are much smaller than what can be detected with standard NDT techniques. The precise characterization, together with advanced modelling, will make it possible to predict the residual life of welded cast iron components.” says Søren Fæster, Senior Scientist at DTU Wind Energy.

Analyses show that the project will result in a saving of ½-1 per cent of the total cost of a wind turbine, which today is around €3M. The cost of the nacelle will be reduced by about 10-15 per cent.

Glenda Napier, CEO of Energy Cluster Denmark, points out that it is the many small solutions that have brought wind technology to where you are today.

“Many small developments and innovations together pave the way for decarbonisation. When we succeed in bringing down the price of renewable energy significantly, we are a long way towards achieving the green targets. The large cast iron elements in the wind turbines are an obvious place to further reduce costs. It is positive that manufacturers have joined forces to develop new solutions that can bring costs down even further,” she says.

The project is funded with DKK 29.5 million from Innovation Fund Denmark and will be active until March 2024.