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Freudenberg Group enters American wind-energy market



Published July 27, 2012
The Freudenberg Group has developed a broad range of technically challenging product solutions and services for the fast-growing wind-energy market in North America.

Various operating companies of the Freudenberg Group are dedicating considerable effort to the development of renewable energy resources. The extensive product portfolio ranges from sealing product innovations from Simrit, over several thousand different specialty lubricants from Kluber Lubrication, to high-end release agents from Chem-Trend, providing a variety of solutions for the fast developing U.S. wind energy market.

Products from Freudenberg Nonwovens are used for composites (FRP), which are suited for surface protection and as core material in production of rotor blades for wind power stations in addition to products such as pipes, tanks, container boards, facade panels, skis, surfboards and boats. Surfacing nonwovens improve the resistance to both corrosion and abrasion defects. Core materials are used to reduce the weight and to increase mechanical strength, which helps in cost cutting.

According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and Pike Research, the North American wind energy sector's current installed capacity is more than 53 megawatts and accounts for more than 22% of the world's total. The U.S., with a current installed capacity of 48,611 megawatts, is the second largest wind market in the world. With a forecast of a total installed wind capacity of more than 125 gigawatts in North America and with offshore installations accounting for less than 3% of that total, it is clearly a market of the future. Wind energy installation costs in the U.S. will exceed $125 billion by 2017, capturing 15% of the global market during that period, while Canada will reach 15 gigawatts of total wind capacity by 2017, with installation costs totaling $19.3 billion by 2017.

This considerable growth requires advancements in component design, materials and testing methods to ensure optimum wind turbine performance, even in the harshest of environments. There are numerous market-specific challenges to sealing wind turbines. Seal suppliers must recognize and understand these challenges in order to identify and develop the proper sealing solutions for current and future applications and their accompanying environments.

Simrit, a well-known brand of Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies and global provider of seals, has developed numerous product and material solutions to address wind-specific challenges, including next-generation seal designs that incorporate new features, such as dust lips and durable materials that extend the life of the seal and system in extreme conditions. For example, Simrit is working with the offshore wind industry to develop special materials and products for sealings of main bearings, slew bearings, nacelle enclosures, etc., which can sustain extreme conditions and guarantee more than ten years of service life. Further, Simrit has developed strong business relationships with wind turbine OEMs in Europe and Asia, and will continue to foster these relationships as these OEMs build their capacities in North America.

“To address the rapid growth in the North American market, Simrit is working with its wind energy customers to develop innovative sealing solutions that meet the unique demands of the industry," says Reddy Tudi, sales director for energy at Simrit. "This is an extreme industry requiring proven solutions that enable customers to increase the reliability and lifespan of their products and systems."

To ensure an all-around high quality solution system for wind energy plants, materials scientists at Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies have developed a high performance material, Ventoguard, that features greater temperature and ozone resistance, ensuring a longer service life. Ventoguard materials lower the minimum temperature, significantly extending the range of applications, especially with respect to different locations and climates. In addition, the relaxation behavior of the material has been significantly improved, ensuring effective sealing durability, and thus, cost benefits. Two recent material examples are Ventoguard 453 and 454, newly improved premium materials that keep grease in place, increase seal life and improve turbine service.

Besides tailor-made seals from Simrit, Chem-Trend, a business division of Freudenberg Chemical Specialties and global leader in the development and manufacture of specialty release solutions, has developed a new series of release agents that offer outstanding performance when removing rotor blades from the mold. Wind turbine rotor blades play a significant role in energy efficiency. The design and shape of the blades have been optimized to meet steadily growing requirements for improved aerodynamics and the highest possible energy yields. Rotor blades are molded from a wide range of composite materials. With special release agents from Chem-Trend, it is easier to release the blades from the mold without damage, which could impact energy efficiency.