The first Natural Fibre Reinforced (NFC) Nacelle
Built out of 80% natural materials. With the End of Life in mind!
Pioneering Natural Fibre Composites in Wind Energy
Summer 2021 provided a landmark moment for the development and application of Natural Fibre Composites (NFC) in wind energy as the 7.3m Green Nacelle was placed on top of its tower in Rotterdam, and the 600kW wind turbine’s 44m diameter rotor was installed.
Showcasing the opportunities with natural fibre composites
Based on the extensive NFC processing expertise developed in-house, GREENBOATS can reduce the CO2emissions of a typical glass fibre reinforced composite (GFRP) part by 60-80% over the product life cycle. In the case of the green nacelle, energy consumption in manufacturing has also been reduced by over 50% compared to a nacelle made with existing GFRP technology.
These important sustainability benefits are all realised without compromising the performance, quality, or durability of the final composite structure.
The green nacelle measures around 7.3m long, 3.6m wide, and 3.1m in height. It was constructed in two parts, an upper and a lower section, each with a steel frame attached that allowed the two halves to be bolted together. A lifeline system was incorporated to allow safe access to the roof and an emergency exit is included at the back of the nacelle.
A key innovation of the green nacelle build process was the panel-based assembly approach, with both sections of the nacelle being created from flat sandwich panels, saving the material and energy necessary to produce large mould tooling.
About 80% of the materials used to build the Nacelle are natural: Sicomin supplied its DNV GL approved, plant-based resin system, which was used to infuse the Bcomp ampliTex™ flax-based reinforcements and FSC certified balsa wood cores of the nacelle’s main structural sandwich panels.
Long term evaluation of natural fibre composites
The nacelle was delivered to the client in January 2021 and later installed on the project’s customized V44 600kW wind turbine that is currently located onshore on the Maasvlakte in Rotterdam.
GREENBOATS will monitor the nacelle performance over time, using their findings to develop a detailed long-term case study for large outdoor NFC structures.
End of life options for wind energy composites
With more than 2.5 million tons of composite materials in use in the wind sector globally, and the first generation of turbines now starting to come to the end of their operational lives, considerable focus is now aimed at addressing these issues.
NFC components can be shredded and separated in several steps. The shredded material can now be used in a pyrolysis process to produce synthetic gas, which is used to make methanol or replace conventional refinery products such as heavy oil in industrial furnaces (Source: Schmehl et al. 2008). But this is just an example of what is possible and not a defined future. In addition, there exists the possibility for highly efficient energy recovery within the standard waste management system.
Sowing the seeds for the increased adoption of NFCs in wind energy
The importance and relevance of the green nacelle project has certainly been noted by leading industrial players and the composites industry itself. Earlier in 2021, GREENBOATS, Sicomin and Bcomp were nominated as JEC Innovation Awards finalists, and since the nacelle was delivered, GREENBOATS has received enquiries from a significant number of wind energy manufacturers.