Advancing Wind Technology, One Massive Blade at a Time

Hi everyone, my name is Martin Stettner and I am a senior engineer in the Aerodynamics and Acoustics Lab at GE Global Research in Munich, Germany.  Our lab supports many GE businesses, but I work exclusively in the wind industry, specifically  rotor blades.

Many of you know that wind has been a big topic of discussion in Germany over the past few years, and even more recently with the “Energiewende” taking place – a radical commitment of the German government to renewable energy, with wind playing a pivotal role. While offshore wind usually makes the headlines here, low wind, onshore installations are essential to meet the 2020 goals set forth by the government.

Over the past few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to get away from equations, simulations, and presentations a little bit by supporting Carlos Haertel, director of our site, and the new wind energy chair at Technical University of Munich, in co-organizing a scientific symposium on the future of wind power technology, and GE’s Renewable Energy business on a “blade tour” across Germany.

Carlos Haertel leaving his mark on the blade
Carlos Haertel leaving his mark on the blade

One of the massive 58.7 meter blades from GE’s newest wind turbine, the 2.5-120, has been traveling by oversize load transport across the country.  The blade has made stops in Salzbergen, GE’s Renewable Energy headquarters, and in Berlin, at the Technical University campus.  Today, the blade has been at the TUM campus, which also happens to be adjacent to our GE Global Research facility.  At the same time, we held the symposium I mentioned earlier, with well-known researchers from academia and industry. Symposium participants, students, GE employees, and anyone from the community were welcome to stop by and check out the blade. Even the president of the TUM, and the Bavarian minister for economics paid a visit to the blade.

The blade is a symbol of the next generation of “intelligent wind turbines” that GE is working to bring to market.  The 2.5-120 is an example with increased output and efficiency by taking advantage of Big Data and the Industrial Internet to optimize the controls and communications capabilities.

At GE Global Research in Munich we are working in close collaboration with our fellow researchers in Niskayuna and Bangalore, but also with GE Power & Water engineers in Salzbergen and Greenville, to move wind technology forward. Together we investigate cost effective, large, revolutionary rotor concepts, and develop smart controls, which reduce loads and cost in extreme operating conditions. We deploy technologies enabling the industry to make wind turbines operate more quietly. We support development of concepts, which enable wind turbines to dodge gusts by “seeing” them as they approach. Rather than optimizing individual wind turbines, we’re looking at wind parks as the actual product.  We use simulations on super computers and analytics of fleet data to understand the interaction between wind turbines, and integrate energy storage. Eventually, brilliant wind turbines and storage will be controlled cooperatively, the whole system intelligently integrating renewable energy sources into nationwide power grids. This is what the “Energiewende” is all about!

After today, the blade will be traveling to the site of the first nationwide commercial installation of the 2.5-120 near Nuernberg, which is about 100 miles from here.  Check out some of the photos of the blade in Munich!

Stump the Scientist's Jim Bray gets in on the action!
Stump the Scientist’s Jim Bray gets in on the action!
Students from the Technical University of Munich signing GE’s 60-meter blade!
Students from the Technical University of Munich signing GE’s 60-meter blade!
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