There is no end market served by the composites industry that consumes more composites materials than wind energy. Aerospace, automotive, marine and other end markets are important to the composites industry, but none of them uses as much material as the wind energy market does.
The increased government support for wind power projects and stringent environmental regulations, increasing need for energy independence and geopolitical energy security, and increasing wind power capacity across the globe is driving the growth of the global wind turbine composite materials market.
As an example, the US Department of Energy has established a goal for wind energy production: by 2030, 20% of US electricity should come from wind energy. As of 2015, that number was 4.7%.
Composites provide the following benefits for wind turbines, such as longer life cycle, high strength-to-weight ratio, corrosion resistance and low maintenance, compared to metals, that is giving them an edge over other materials.
Glass fiber reinforced epoxy resin found the widest application in the wind turbine blade materials market. However, the carbon fiber composites are increasingly being used for the manufacturing of wind turbine blades, owing to their high strength and low-weight. But carbon fiber has a significant drawback – that is its cost while the size of wind turbines is constantly increasing.
The wind turbine with blades length up to 80m has been created recently and they are expected to continue to grow as the next generation of turbines is developed. Consequently, the cost will also increase.
In this regard, basalt fiber which is cheaper than carbon fiber and has similar or better properties than S-2 glass fiber offers an ideal alternative for the wind turbine rotor blades.
Asia-Pacific held the largest share in the global wind turbine composite materials market in 2015 due to high energy demand and significant growth in the wind energy industry.
China held the largest share not only in Asia-Pacific but also in the world. According to the Five-Year Plan period (2016-2020), China will add more than 100 million kW of wind power capacity, creating an estimated annual average demand of over 14,000 sets of wind turbine blade.
The Middle East and Africa is expected to be the fastest growing market for wind turbine composite materials during 2016 – 2022, owing to the several anticipated wind power projects in the region.