As the name suggests, the leading edge is the part of the blade that comes first in contact with the wind. It is therefore naturally the part that is most vulnerable to environmental demands.

Wind turbines that are located in an environment containing greater abrasive particles such as rain, snow, hail, dust or insects, are more prone to erosion. However, the significant development of the wind industry over the past two decades has led to the installation of wind farms in increasingly hostile environments.

In addition, the size of the turbines have continued to increase, resulting in a greater diameter of the rotor. This evidently causes the blades to turn at a greater speed, causing more damage to the tip of the blades. Damage to the blades caused by erosion will result in aerodynamic losses, and therefore significant production losses.

The ORE Catapult research centre, in collaboration with Centrica, conducted a measurement campaign on UK offshore parks, which estimated a gain of 1.5 to 2% in production when the leading edges were repaired on a regular basis. To mitigate erosion of the leading edge, most manufacturers offer leading edge protections in the form of coating on new turbines. However, laboratory tests appear to show that most of the anti-erosion coatings installed have only a limited capacity to withstand extreme conditions.

This limited life of anti-erosion coatings is a major issue for the wind industry, especially in offshore wind. Indeed, an intervention for repairing the coating of an offshore park can be very expensive. It is therefore essential to invest in research in order to have sustainable coating solutions.

The wind industry seems to now be aware of this issue, and responsive to such matters. For example, LM – the world leader in the supply of blades – has conducted an in-depth reliability study on more than 1,300 leading edges spread over different sites. As a result of this study, LM has implemented more restrictive test protocols which have allowed them to better understand the behaviour of the materials that comprise the blade over its lifetime. These tests allowed LM to develop a new polyurethane coating that they believed would improve the reliability of the performance of the leading edges, ensuring a longer lifespan, and lowering maintenance costs.

To limit the risks associated with blades, Greensolver offers a range of innovative solutions. In particular, Bladesolver, which is a complete solution to improve performance and reduce blade costs.