The “world’s first” rapid testing facility for tidal turbine blades, which researchers say can speed up development of marine energy technologies while helping to reduce costs, has opened in Scotland.
FastBlade’s pioneering technology will stress test blades made from composite materials – which must withstand harsh ocean conditions for 20 years – more quickly, and using significantly less energy than any other facility of its kind, the team says.
Based in Rosyth, Fife, the £4.6 million facility aims to maintain Scotland’s position at the forefront of tidal energy development.
FastBlade is a partnership between the University of Edinburgh and engineering company Babcock International and supported by a £1.8 million grant from the UK Government, via the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).
The facility’s 75-tonne reaction frame is capable of exerting powerful forces on turbine blades more than 50 feet long. Tests on blades are carried out using a system of powerful hydraulic cylinders, which, in less than three months, can simulate the stresses placed on the structures during two decades at sea.
It replicates the complex forces to which tidal turbines are exposed at sea using unique digital and hydraulic technology systems developed by engineers at the University of Edinburgh.
The facility, funded by EPSRC and the University of Edinburgh, has received support from Edinburgh Innovations, the University’s commercialisation service, throughout its development.
Professor Conchúr Ó Brádaigh, head of School of Engineering at the University of Edinburgh, said: “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.”
Neil Young, engineering director for Babcock, 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.”
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