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Lightweight materials are seeing greater adoption in wind turbine manufacturing as evidenced by patent trends. High-strength materials including glass fibre- and carbon fibre- reinforced plastics (GFRP/CFRP) is expected to replace conventional resins and composites due to their durable and lightweight properties.

Most material developers for wind energy have already deployed these products to cater to the rising global demand and the need for increased efficiency.New analysis from Frost & Sullivan finds that about 9,500 tonnes of composite materials are used annually for manufacturing wind blades. Between now and 2020, the materials segment will grow at a rate of 17 per cent annually. The study looks mainly at materials for rotor blades and nacelles but includes foundation and tower applications. The market is looking for materials that have high fatigue resistance and the ability to withstand harsh environments, especially in the rotor blades segment. CFRP is already being adopted as the reinforcement material of choice for larger blades for wind turbines. Retrofitting of existing turbine blades will further improve the adoption potential of CFRPs in this industry. However, the cost of production and raw materials may prove a dampener, eventually making way for the development of more cost-effective hybrid materials.

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