Harnessing the power of wind through chemistry

The Department of Energy recently announced two reports that show record highs for wind energy production and manufacturing in the U.S. According to DOE, “Wind energy is now the fastest growing source of power in the United States – representing 43 percent of all new U.S. electric generation capacity in 2012 and $25 billion in new investment.”

More than 13 gigawatts of new wind power capacity were added in 2012, nearly double what was deployed in 2011. We ended 2012 with 60 gigawatts of total capacity, enough to power all the homes in California and Washington State combined, according to DOE.

DOE also found that 72 percent of the wind power equipment installed in the U.S. last year, including towers, rotor blades and gears, was made in America. Industry estimates say the wind sector, directly and indirectly, employs more than 80,000 American workers.

Clearly, wind power is an important part of a diverse national energy portfolio.” The industry continues to increase wind turbine energy yields while decreasing cost per kilowatt hour. Energy efficiency can be improved by using larger, longer and lighter rotor blades. However, as blade size increases so do the inertial forces that cause cracking and other forms of structural degradation. That’s where chemistry comes in.

Companies like Momentive Specialty Chemicals are enabling the production of more efficient wind turbines. For example, Momentive’s matrix epoxy resin system has been designed specifically for carbon fiber infusion processes that greatly improve the composite strength of rotor blades – some of which are more than 260 feet long – while minimizing added weight.

Rotor blade manufacturers using the Momentive system can realize cost savings through decreased raw material resources, such as fiber and resin. And wind energy providers benefit from greater energy efficiency through larger, stronger rotor blades that last longer and will need fewer repairs or replacements. This added durability also enables providers to place turbines in areas that are optimal for wind but less accessible for routine maintenance.

Check out the new Momentive interactive case study to learn more about how chemistry helps harness the power of wind.

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