Pflugerville, Texas-based Wetzel Blade was recently recognized by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
Wetzel's blade technology – a prefabricated, field-assembled turbine blade that boosts production capacity and outlasts current generation composite blades – is based on a space frame design and features independently fabricated pultruded spars. According to the company, the parts are sized for easy transport and field assembly, in similar fashion to military equipment.
According to Wetzel, its blades can be easily transported, something the current generation blades cannot easily claim. Today's blades are fully assembled in large-scale factories and transported in one piece to wind farms. In the U.S., 58-meter land turbine blades are the largest that can be transported in a traditional manner, using supersized trailers with escort vehicles. The complex logistics involve coordinating drivers, escorts, permits and specialized equipment – which generally amounts to 3%-5% of the total installed cost of each turbine, the company notes.
Wetzel Blade, a spin-off of Wetzel Engineering, is currently in the structural testing phase with plans to demonstrate a sub scale prototype in early 2015. The project has been partially funded through an award from the U.S. Department of Energy.