ORONO, Maine — The UMaine Composites Center has taken in a very, very big test subject.
Wednesday, a truck brought in a 180-foot wind turbine blade for strength testing. It’s the biggest structure the center has put through the ringer in its six years of evaluating turbine components. Under the terms of its contract with the manufacturer, the name of the company that produced the turbine is confidential.
Habib Dagher, director of the composites center, says this is the largest structure ever tested at his facility, which is one of just two sites in the nation capable of handling a blade this large. The blade would go on a turbine with a 400-foot rotation diameter, or about four stories tall, not including the tower.
Dagher said there has been a growing interest across the nation in using fewer but larger turbines in wind farms because they are more cost-effective in energy production.
“There’s a big push for bigger and bigger and bigger,” Dagher said.
During the next few days, center employees will place about 150 sensors on the blade to measure stress as they apply pressure and bend it or twist it in various directions. Dagher said the blade should deflect about 20 or 30 feet under the pressure loads they’ll be using.
Tests will be run on the blade for most of the remainder of the year, according to Dagher.
“This certainly takes things to the next level,” Dagher said. “It’s going to put Maine on the map in the industry.”
Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter at @nmccrea213.