Current Issue
This Month's Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

1 minute read

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

What a cute wittle double decker plane!

  • <p>One half of the massive two-part mold.</p>
  • <p>The finished blade, being trucked around the factory.</p>
  • <p>The fiberglass patterning is actually quite beautiful. Almost a shame it will be covered with paint.</p>
  • <p>Inspection for defects and cracks.</p>
  • <p>The 357-mile journey to installation.</p>
  • <p>A single blade almost matches the wingspan of an Airbus A380; a single wind turbine dwarfs it.</p>
  • 01 /06

    One half of the massive two-part mold.

  • 02 /06

    The finished blade, being trucked around the factory.

  • 03 /06

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

  • 04 /06

    Inspection for defects and cracks.

  • 05 /06

    The 357-mile journey to installation.

  • 06 /06

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

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.