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Industry Leaders Attend Composites Manufacturing Facility Launch

March 28, 2017

A photo of three men watching a television screen showing a time lapse video of the construction of a wind turbine blade.

Attendees watch time-lapse footage of blade construction at the Composites Manufacturing Education and Technology facility. Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL 41804

On Jan. 31, the National Wind Technology Center (NWTC) at the National Renewable Energy Lab welcomed its newest building: the Composites Manufacturing Education and Technology (CoMET) facility. The capability is designed to fill a critical composites manufacturing gap in the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation’s (IACMI’s) research and development process.

“CoMET will allow us to interact in a hands-on manner with our U.S. wind industry partners to further advance innovative composite materials and manufacturing methods on the path toward commercialization,” says Derek Berry, a senior wind technology engineer at NREL and director of IACMI’s wind technology area.

More than 100 visitors attended the CoMET facility ribbon-cutting, including IACMI members, industry partners, guests from other national laboratories, and representatives for Colorado senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner. NREL speakers included Laboratory Director Martin Keller, Associate Laboratory Director for Mechanical and Thermal Systems Engineering Johney Green, and NWTC Director Daniel Laird.

Other speakers included Michael Derby of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Wind Energy Technology Office; Katie Woslager from the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade; Derek Passarelli, the director of the DOE Golden Field Office; Valri Lightner from the DOE Advanced Manufacturing Office; Bryan Dods, CEO of IACMI; and Jacques Nader, the head of Siemens’ Global Blade Design Research and Development Competence Center in Boulder.

Berry introduced the 10,000-square-foot facility—previously used to prepare blades for structural testing—and shared his enthusiasm about CoMET’s future. Experts answered visitors’ questions about the building, turbine blade molds, workforce training, and the first-ever wind turbine blade manufactured entirely with three-dimensional molds.

Building on existing relationships among industry, NREL, IACMI, and DOE, the CoMET facility establishes an ideal location for collaborative efforts to address the manufacturing and material hurdles facing the wind energy industry.

“It’s a place for collaboration between industry and laboratories to solve challenges and obstacles with composite manufacturing,” Berry says. “We will work together to develop new manufacturing approaches that can be commercialized to create more jobs and projects.”

With a focus on megawatt-scale wind turbine blade components, such as root inserts, spar caps, and blade skin laminates, the facility allows IACMI partners to rapidly conceptualize and manufacture blade prototypes and turbine components, with the ability to test those components onsite at the NWTC.

The CoMET facility also offers workforce development and training for the rapidly growing composite manufacturing industry.