Engineering Feat: World’s Longest Onshore Wind Turbine Blades

February 29, 2024 by Jake Hertz

China’s SANY Renewable Energy has crafted the world's longest onshore wind turbine blades, offering a number of unique features.

Wind is plentiful, virtually limitless, and among the most environmentally friendly renewable energy sources available on Earth. It’s no wonder that wind turbines have become such a vital instrument in the battle to supply renewable energy to meet growing demands, reduce reliance on fossil fuels, and lessen environmental harm. 

SANY Renewable Energy in China has reached a major milestone in wind energy with the successful engineering of the world's longest onshore wind turbine blades. This article outlines some challenges encountered in turbine blade engineering and looks deeper at the details of SANY’s achievement. 


SY1310A - the world’s largest onshore blades.

SY1310A - the world’s largest onshore blades. Image courtesy of SANY


Engineering Wind Turbine Blades

In a wind turbine, the blades serve as the point of contact between the turbine and the wind, making them the pivotal point for converting wind energy into mechanical energy and driving the turbines to generate electricity. However, blades represent a major concern for investors as they account for a quarter of the expenses associated with a wind turbine. 

One notable challenge in blade design is optimizing aerodynamic efficiency while maintaining structural integrity. Ultimately, blades must minimize drag and turbulence for efficient energy capture while at the same time withstanding high mechanical stresses during operation. In general, a greater blade length implies greater energy extraction but also reduced structural integrity. 


Electricity generation with onshore wind turbines.

Electricity generation with onshore wind turbines. Image courtesy of Ormazabal


The traditional model for manufacturing wind turbine blades is notoriously labor-intensive and expensive. This method, often reliant on extensive manual labor and precision craftsmanship, leads to increased production times and elevated expenses. As a result, manufacturers face constraints in scaling up production efficiently, which is crucial for meeting the growing demand for renewable energy sources. The need for a more streamlined and cost-effective manufacturing process is evident, as it would not only enhance production capabilities but also make wind energy more accessible and affordable on a global scale.

Addressing these challenges requires innovative approaches in blade design, materials, and manufacturing processes to enhance turbine blades' efficiency, durability, and resilience. 


China’s Wind Turbine Blade Milestone

China’s wind turbine manufacturing giant, SANY Renewable Energy, has recently developed the world’s largest onshore wind turbine blades. At a length of 430 feet, the SY1310A blade exceeds even that of offshore wind turbine blades. 

Designing a blade of such great length presented a number of unique challenges for designers and manufacturers. For example, to balance the tradeoff between structural integrity and length, SANY needed to develop a high-performance airfoil with a thick, rounded trailing edge, optimized layout, and increased thickness. Coupled with carbon fiber composites, the airfoil design, tailored for maximum lift and minimal drag, resulted in improved energy capture efficiency without compromising structural integrity.


SANY’s 131-meter wind turbine blades.

SANY’s 131-meter wind turbine blades. Image used courtesy of SANY


The manufacture of the blade also necessitated cutting-edge technologies and novel manufacturing techniques. According to SANY, the team utilized techniques such as robotic-powered precision fiberglass cutting and a large-surface grinding robot with a specially designed CNC end milling tool for the blade root section. The techniques developed by SANY resulted in a near-zero prefabrication failure rate, with a blade manufacturing time of under 30 hours, ten hours less than the industry average.

SANY plans to mount the SY1310A on the company's 15-megawatt wind turbine, which debuted at the China Wind Power 2023 exhibition, then the world's largest. 


Future Implications for Wind Turbine Blades

Overall, the implications of these technological advancements are profound. SANY’s innovative approaches to wind turbine blade design and manufacture have allowed for the development of new turbine blades that increase energy efficiency and levelized cost of energy without risking reliability. As wind power becomes more integral in the renewable energy portfolio, innovations like this can help us build a more sustainable and energy-efficient future.