The world’s first rapid testing facility for tidal turbine blades will speed up the development of marine energy technologies while helping to reduce cost and maintaining Scotland’s position at the forefront of tidal energy development.
FastBlade, which opened in 2022 is a partnership between the University of Edinburgh and Babcock International, based in Rosyth, Fife and made possible through £4.1 million in funding from the University along with a £1.8 million grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).
The pioneering technology at the facility, stress tests blades made from composite materials – which must withstand harsh ocean conditions for 20 years – more quickly, and using significantly less energy than any other facility of its kind. The facility’s 75-tonne reaction frame is capable of exerting powerful forces on turbine blades more than 50 feet long. Tests on blades are carried out using a system of powerful hydraulic cylinders, which in less than three months, can simulate the stresses placed on the structures during two decades at sea. It replicates the complex forces to which tidal turbines are exposed at sea using unique digital and hydraulic technology systems developed by engineers at the University of Edinburgh.
The facility came about through a partnership with Babcock International, a leading provider of complex engineering services who have worked with the University for many years. The latest venture arose from an Edinburgh Innovations workshop that allowed Edinburgh academics to demonstrate to Babcock how they could apply their research to help the business overcome a number of challenges.
Following this, Babcock hosted two Edinburgh University academic secondments at their manufacturing facility in Rosyth. Through his secondment work, data architect Dr Nick Brown effectively demonstrated the value of exploiting Babcock’s vast data resources to reduce operational costs, improve time to results, and underpin the company’s technical strategy. Over time the partnership developed, resulting in the opening of the multi-million-pound composite structures research facility. As an international centre of innovation, FastBlade researches and tests composite materials and structures for a variety of industries: tidal energy, marine, transport, nuclear and aerospace.
FastBlade also helps meet requirements to develop digital skills in the region - in partnership with Fife College - as set by the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal and is part of a transformational programme approach to skills – going from school leavers through to further and higher education.
FastBlade sits at the Arrol Gibb Innovation Campus at Rosyth, home to large-scale advanced engineering and manufacturing focused on the marine and energy sectors.
For us, this really is a great industrial partnership. Our engineering working alongside the University’s renowned academics have shown what the art of the possible is, in engineering and in working together… I know we are creating something that isn’t just a great opportunity of us, it will have real benefit for all the companies using the facility in years to come."“