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German wind turbine blade manufacturer, Abeking and Rassmussen, has been selected as supplier for the Husumer Schiffswerft (HSW) 1 MW machine, now being developed. The deal was finally agreed at the Hannover Trade Fair in April. Abeking also supplies blades to wind companies Tacke, Autoflug, Ventis, Nordwind and other HSW turbines.xReferring to the relatively few suppliers of blades to the wind industry in Europe, Abeking and Rassmussen's Rolf Fuhrhoff says stringent environmental legislation governing work with glass fibre makes setting up a production line very costly. Abeking, based in Lemwerder, built a new production workshop at a cost of DEM 14 million because adaption of its old one to comply with regulations was impossible. Production at the new plant started earlier this year.

Since January 1995, styrol emissions during the production in Germany of blades using polyester have to be 20 parts per million or below. This is only possible using polyester resin based on expensive terephthalic acid, says Fuhrhoff. The old workshop produces only epoxy blades now. The new plant, alongside the river Weser, raises the possibility of transporting large blades to their destinations via water, says Fuhrhoff, especially useful for an offshore wind facility.

Overseas, the company's blades will eventually be produced under licence in India, possibly by TTG of Madras which is already in partnership with HSW. At the moment the raw materials for production of blades in India must be delivered from Germany, but Abeking is now looking into materials available in India to find out whether they are suitable for blade construction.

An important consideration for Abeking is blade disposal. Today blades are made of 60% glass fibre and 40% chemically inert polyester or epoxy resins, making it possible to shred and dump them as "special waste" at a cost of DEM 1000-2000 per blade. An alternative disposal route is to granulate the blades and offer the product as " dividend powder" to manufacturers of plastic.

The fundamental aim of the company is to minimise the material needed to make a blade so that the final tonnage to dispose of is as small as possible. In a long term project, Abeking and Rassmussen is also co-operating with the Bremen-based Fibre Institute FIS, to investigate alternative "natural products" such as flax or even the fibres found in banana skins. The company is also looking at thermoplastic materials -- plastics which melt at 400 to 500 degrees Centigrade. A blade made of such material could be melted down at the end of its lifetime enabling the fibre to be separated from the plastic.

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