Salient White Elephant

February 24, 2009

Fiberglass Wind Turbine Gearbox

The wind turbines once manufactured by Carter Wind Turbines, Inc. utilized innovative fiberglass technology. The spar for the blade of the Carter wind machine was made of fiberglass. It looked like a giant wooden popsicle stick. It was spun from fiberglass thread. The fiberglass thread was wound around a mold much in the way fishing line is wound up on the reel of a fishing rod, except that shape of the object supporting the strand was oblong instead of cylindrical. The gears for the fiberglass gearbox would be manufactured in a similar way. First, fiberglass thread is wound into a thick disk shape. Next, a metal ring with teeth is mounted on the rim of the fiberglass disk. The woven strand fiberglass technology was originally used to make pipe. A long cylindrical shape was spun from fiberglass thread in a manner similar to that described above. The outer case of the fiberglass gearbox might be cylindrical in shape, and might be spun from glass in the same way. The shaft of the gearbox might also be spun from glass.

Advantages of Fiberglass Gearbox

The fiberglass gearbox may prove lighter and less costly than the traditional metal gearbox. Also, objects spun from fiberglass strand tend to be robust and flexible. If the components of a fiberglass gearbox do not prove to be overly flexible, then the added flexibility may provide damping and increased resistance to damage from mechanical shock.

I had the idea for the fiberglass gearbox in connection with the Scalable Tower for Very Large Wind Turbine. The fiberglass gearbox may prove to be lighter and more robust than the metal gearbox currently used for wind turbines. However, if such a gearbox is feasible, it would not provide much economic benefit when used in a turbine that has a traditional HAWT tower. This is so because a lighter (lower cost) nacelle does not result in a lighter (lower cost) tower. But if the scalable tower proves viable, then perhaps it would be worth looking in to the possibility of making a gearbox from fiberglass.

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