FastBlade composites stress test facility opens for business

2 min read

Composite tidal turbine blades can now be stress tested at FastBlade, a new facility opened today (May 13) in Rosyth that will speed up the development of marine energy technologies.

FastBlade is open for business Rosyth, Scotland
FastBlade is open for business Rosyth, Scotland - Edinburgh University

In under three months FastBlade - a partnership between Edinburgh University and Babcock International - will simulate the stresses placed on tidal turbine blades during two decades at sea. To do so, Fastblade’s 75-tonne reaction frame will exert powerful forces on turbine blades over 50 feet long via a system of hydraulic cylinders.

In doing so, it will replicate the complex forces to which tidal turbines are exposed at sea using digital and hydraulic technology systems developed by engineers at Edinburgh University.

In a statement, Professor Conchúr Ó Brádaigh, head of School of Engineering at Edinburgh University, said: “FastBlade will be the world’s first dedicated fatigue test facility for tidal turbine blades, and will help this emerging industry provide clean, reliable renewable energy at a reasonable cost to consumers.

“The facility will also help maintain the globally leading position of Scottish tidal turbine developers in the race to find sources of clean and secure power, as well as confirming the societal impact of Edinburgh University’s research and development efforts in marine renewable energy.”

The facility, funded by EPSRC and Edinburgh University, has received support from Edinburgh Innovations, the University’s commercialisation service, throughout its development.

As well as tidal blades, FastBlade’s technology can also be used to test lightweight bridge sections and aircraft wing components. It is the first facility to open in a recently launched multi-partner innovation centre at Babcock’s Rosyth site. The Arrol Gibb Innovation Campus (AGIC) will work with companies in the marine, nuclear power and energy-transition sectors to transform large-scale manufacturing through innovation and skills development.

Neil Young, engineering director for Babcock, said: “Today marks a real milestone for all of us involved in the FastBlade partnership. We’ve taken a vision of technological innovation and together we’ve built a ground-breaking engineering construct that can carry out large-scale accelerated testing of structural composites in a more sustainable way.

“Collaborations like this are fundamental to help us and the wider engineering industry create more research opportunities and secure longer-term investment into digital and data skills – an area that is significantly growing in demand for Babcock and our customers. We believe the research arm of this facility will generate real interest from students looking to learn more about sustainable technology and I’m really looking forward to working with the teams to support that skills agenda and see where this takes us into the future.”

The £4.6m facility was officially opened by UK government minister for Scotland Malcolm Offord.