https://innovateuk.blog.gov.uk/2017/11/30/from-sailboats-to-wind-turbines-the-journey-from-big-idea-to-realisation/

From sailboats to wind turbines: the journey from big idea to realisation

I was working in the yachting industry when my team and I came up with ACT Blade’s big idea – using textile composites over traditional, heavier glass fibre. It was 2013 and the yachting industry was still suffering through the financial crisis. The company I was working for, SMAR Azure LTD, were leaders in the industry, but the economic climate was making things difficult. So, we started looking at where we could apply the same technology elsewhere.

And then it hit me; my lightbulb moment. Myself and the technical director, Donald MacVicar, were working on a big sailing project, and I began wondering whether the same textile used in modern sails could also be used to make wind turbines lighter than the glass fibre design that’s been used for years.

ACT Blade’s CEO Sabrina Malpede
ACT Blade’s CEO Sabrina Malpede

Education and collaboration

To find out, the first step required me to build the skills I’d need to take this from idea to viable business model. I enrolled in a strategy development course at the London Business School and when I finished, I returned full of ideas.

Next, I talked to the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult where I met with an expert to discuss whether there was even a market for this idea. It turned out there was. So, armed with the knowledge there was a real appetite in the industry for longer, lighter, wind turbine blades, we applied for our first feasibility study. The following January, we started turning our idea into a reality.

CEO Sabrina Malpede in front of wind farm in Edinburgh
CEO Sabrina Malpede in front of wind farm in Edinburgh

Transforming the green energy market

The thing is, our blades are designed and made in a totally different way. They’re able to produce more energy than traditional glass fibre blades, because they’re longer. The reason this is possible is because they’re made from a lighter composite textile. This will, in turn, reduce the cost of clean energy by reducing the operational costs of wind farms.

Many also don’t realise that a good number of wind turbines are coming to the end of their life – and they can’t be recycled. In the long-term this approach will make the energy market even greener because these blades are designed first and foremost to be recyclable, solving the end-of-life issue faced by many turbine owners.

The ultimate goal is to make green energy a more feasible choice for the UK and beyond.

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