'World's First' 115m+ Rotor Blade Test Rig for Offshore Wind Turbines Unveiled in Germany

©Hauke Müller
©Hauke Müller

Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy Systems IWES’ new 115m+ rotor blade test rig was recently inaugurated in Bremerhaven, Germany.

The new rotor blade test rig, dubbed the first of its kind in the world, according to Fraunhofer IWES, offers comprehensive testing possibilities for rotor blades measuring longer than 115 meters. These blade lengths are being specially developed for offshore wind turbines.

In addition to biaxial full-scale blade tests, manufacturers also have the option of testing individual segments of a rotor blade. The modular and adaptable design of the test rig allows the scientists at Fraunhofer IWES to react flexibly to requirements and further develop intelligent test methods. Conventional test methods are combined with new approaches. 

In addition, it is possible to test the entire material behavior of the rotor blades. With the help of segmented and sequential tests, a rotor blade can be divided into suitable segments, which can be optimized and tested one after the other. The entire test rig can also be mapped virtually, thus opening up testing possibilities for a wide range of other innovative, digital testing methods, Fraunhofer IWES said.

 "IWES and the expertise of its employees have played a great role in enabling Bremen and, in particular, Bremerhaven to reestablish themselves as wind energy locations. That is good for jobs and good for the energy transition. For this reason, it is right and important that we invest enormously in research and development in Germany. Our goal must be to reduce the costs for renewable energy production even further and utilize innovative technologies for the energy transition," said added Bremen Mayor Andreas Bovenschulte.

"The development of our new wind turbines is an important step on the way to achieving the ambitious expansion goals for wind energy. We are looking forward to conducting the rotor blade test we need for our V236-15.0 MW prototype with a rotor diameter of 236 meters together with Fraunhofer IWES with the aim of being able to start the serial production planned for 2024 assuredly," said Christian Fenselau, Chief Specialist Test and Validation at Vestas Wind Systems A/S.

Steffen Czichon, Head of Department Rotor Blades at Fraunhofer IWES, emphasized: »Here in Bremerhaven, we can look back on experience from more than 40 test campaigns conducted over the last ten years. With our competence, we are contributing to rotor blades being able to be operated reliably throughout their entire lifespan of more than 20 years. The new test rig is expanding the existing test infrastructure and opening up new possibilities with which we can keep up with the growth in the size of wind turbines. IWES has developed a biaxial test setup which enables synchronized excitation in flap- and edgewise direction. This achieves reproducible results, and the test time can be considerably shortened. We are very proud of our new test rig and, at the same time, motivated to improve the test methods continuously.«

With the new test rig, IWES is now operating a total of three test facilities for rotor blades.

The construction of the test rig was financed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) to the tune of around €18 million, with additional funding of around €5 million coming from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the State of Bremen, and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

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