FastBlade, dubbed the world’s first rapid testing facility for tidal turbine blades, was officially opened in Fife, Scotland, on Friday as part of a partnership between the University of Edinburgh and Babcock.
The facility will stress test blades made from composite materials – which must withstand harsh ocean conditions for 20 years – more quickly and will use significantly less energy than any other facility of its kind, according to Babcock.
Based at Babcock’s Rosyth site in Fife, the £4.6 million (USD 5,6 million) facility was officially opened by UK Government Minister for Scotland Malcolm Offord, supported by a £1.8 million grant from the UK Government, via the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).
Lord Offord said the facility would “speed up the rollout of equipment that will capitalize on sustainable tidal power and underline Scotland’s place as a world leader in offshore renewables technology.”
According to Babcock, the facility’s 75-tonne reaction frame, built by Babcock, is capable of exerting powerful forces on turbine blades more than 50 feet ( more than 15.24 meters) long. Tests on blades are carried out using a system of powerful hydraulic cylinders and, in three months, can simulate the same stresses placed on the structures during two decades at sea.
Data generated from testing will help researchers and developers understand how tidal turbine blades deteriorate over time, so they can optimise the design of more durable, efficient structures.