One half of the massive two-part mold.

The finished blade, being trucked around the factory.

The fiberglass patterning is actually quite beautiful. Almost a shame it will be covered with paint.

Inspection for defects and cracks.

The 357-mile journey to installation.

A single blade almost matches the wingspan of an Airbus A380; a single wind turbine dwarfs it.

Co.Design

The World’s Largest Wind Turbine Makes A Jumbo Jet Look Tiny

What a cute wittle double decker plane!

It’s called the Quantum Blade. And somehow, wind turbine manufacturer Siemens beat Gillette to the name. At nearly 250 feet long, the Quantum is the world’s largest wind turbine blade. It’s also the world’s largest fiberglass component to ever be cast in a single piece. And when installed on Siemens’ 6-megawatt wind turbine prototype, the monstrous wind generator will absolutely dwarf Airbus’s famed A380.

Factory inspection for defects and cracks.

Designing anything at the epic scale comes with a whole new set of challenges--from the big scientific breakthroughs to the small questions of logistics. On one hand, Siemens had to redesign some of the blade’s fundamental geometry to save weight--if they’d merely made their old blade bigger, it weigh 10-20% more (which would have a cumulative impact on the entire wind generator structure). Yet on the other, Siemens had to sweat all the small stuff, like figuring out how to manufacture the Quantum’s mold in multiple parts just so it could be transported, or finding a route from the factory to the test site with roads that could accommodate a 250-foot-long vehicle. Even painting the thing was a challenge: Siemens couldn’t use their paint house because it wasn’t large enough, so instead, the Quantum was painted on site.

In the end, this supersizing does have a pretty epic payoff. With three Quantums mounted on a single generator, they chew on a wind-print of over 61,000 square feet, which equates to about 200 tons of air processed per second. To put all of this power into some level of perspective, Siemens’ giant turbine generates a bit over 1/10 of the power of the world’s very first nuclear reactor, or roughly 1/150 the capacity of one built today. But, you know, offshore wind turbines don’t make the surrounding waters glow.

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6 Comments

  • Vindpust

    This article sums up the problem with wind - it is not only intermittent and unreliable from hour to hour and season to season but is a highly diffuse source of energy.

    Betz's Law, which defines the limits of turbine output, was known over 90 years ago. They can make turbines hugely higher and bigger in order to improve wind speeds and the swept area of blades but that carries a penalty - 198m turbines (current Enercon E126) and future 250m high turbines have to be much more widely spaced than smaller turbines due to air turbulence from their neighbours. They are hugely more intrusive and also tend to be noisier.

    There is also the minor problem, experienced in every country with large wind capacities, that wind produces in inverse proportion to need - it is good at producing large surges of power in mild weather and then producing the square root of damn-all when we suffer very low or very high temperatures and demand soars.

  • Mickey

    So all you need is 150 of these monsters cluttering things up to equal one nuke plant, and even then they only work when the wind is blowing at the optimum velocity.  Nuclear is the only realistic solution, going forward.  Wind and solar will always have their place, but they'll never provide more than a fraction of our needs.  It's nukes or nothing.  The sooner we accept that and begin moving forward the sooner we can wean ourselves off OPEC's teat.
     

  • UnderSerf

    Umm... how many square miles do reaction byproducts and nuclear containment events render uncluttered? For how long? We talk nuclear, we best put 'em somewhere with a good Conservative electorate that has the population density of say, AK or ND (both HUGE fans of Federal agencies like the DoE). Man, we can't get Americans to pay one another a decent wage or agree on what constitutes Life, yet with nuke power we expect the NIMBYs and the Luddites to quietly fade away? Yeah, when one faction in gubmint denies functionality to the rest of gubmint agencies, and we see jobs TODAY as more important than environment FOREVER, the odds against nukes anytime before Dysan (the logical endpoint of any civilization seeking limitless energy, yes?) aren't gonna get any better...

  • Doug Deal

    That's rated power, typical output might be 1/10 as much, so it is more like 1,000 of these monsters.  Also, 1 GW is one nuclear reactor, a single plant can have 4 or more reactors.

  • Jeff Dorchester

    Wouldn't it be great if they make the skin out of solar material as well. Double up the power generation methods.

  • Anumakonda Jagadeesh

    Nowadays BIG IS BOUNTIFUL in Wind Turbines.
    Dr.A.Jagadeesh  Nellore(AP),India
    Wind Energy Expert
    E-mail: anumakonda.jagadeesh@gmail.com