The world’s largest-ever onshore wind turbine blades have been manufactured in China. At 131 metres in length, each foil would dwarf Big Ben or the Statue of Liberty.
Once installed in central China in the coming months, each of the structures, including a 15-megawatt turbine and three blades, will have a diameter of over 260 metres.
The SY1310A onshore wind turbine blade was made by SANY Renewable Energy at its factory in Bayannur in northern China.
The company said in a statement that the increased blade length meant greater demands for stiffness and strength as well as the need for protection from extreme weather events such as lightning.
“The blade has applied multiple advanced technological innovations including a high-performance airfoil with a thick blunt trailing edge, optimized airfoil layout, and overall increased thickness,” it said.
Peter Majewski at the University of South Australia says the advantage of such large wind turbines is that the bigger they are, the fewer are needed. “But the bigger they are, the more visible they are and so there has to be social acceptance for such large structures to be built,” he says.
“These are huge structures and putting them up is expensive and taking them down is just as expensive.”
While wind turbine blades can continue to get larger, the logistics of transporting such massive blades make their use challenging, says Majewski. He also says that manufacturers and society must consider what will be done with these structures as they age.
Majewski has studied the issue of recycling wind turbine blades. In a 2022 study, he and his colleagues predicted that, by 2050, when existing turbines reach the end of their 20 to 30-year lifespan, there will be tens of thousands of tonnes of wind farm blades that may need to go to landfill.
However, he welcomed the use of recycled polyurethane as part of the construction of these newly unveiled blades.