Structural Re-Purposing of FRP Composite Wind Turbine Blades for Civil Engineering Infrastructure

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Alshannaq, Ammar A.
Scott, David W.
Gentry, T. Russell
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The production of wind energy worldwide is growing exponentially. Composite wind turbine blades, typically designed for a 20-year fatigue life, are beginning to come out of service in large numbers. In general, these decommissioned wind blades, composed primarily of glass fibers in a thermoset matrix, are demolished and landfilled. There is little motivation for recycling the composite materials, as the processes for reclaiming the fibers (solvolysis, pyrolysis) have not been proven to be economically viable. This research seeks to establish structural re-use applications for wind turbine blades in civil engineering infrastructure, hypothesizing that advanced composite materials may be an attractive alternative to conventional infrastructure materials (e.g., steel, reinforced concrete). This study presents advanced structural analysis and materials characterization of a 46.7-meter Clipper C96 and a 37-meter GE 37 wind blades. The primary numerical analysis is accompanied by materials characterization taken from an un-used Clipper blade donated to the project from the Wind Turbine Testing Center (WTTC), while the as-received material testing is done on a GE 37 blade that has been in service for 11 years in a wind farm in Langford, Texas and is donated to the project by Logisticus Group. This work presents a detailed structural analysis of the Clipper wind blade as an electrical transmission pole, called “BladePole”. It also summarizes the as-received physical and mechanical properties of the GE wind blade for potential second-life repurposing application and emphasizes on the reliability and confidence levels of the strength and stiffness retention of this used wind blade. Coupon-scale and full-scale BladePole component connections have been tested and their expected limit states are studied to prove efficacy for implementation at the industry level.
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