Freudenberg forges ahead

The international wind power equipment industry was hard-hit by the world economic crisis, with a severe fall in new capacity installed. Only China was unaffected, reporting the largest number of new wind power facilities, with a capacity of 14,000 to 16,000 MW, about half of the global figure. The corresponding figure for the USA was only 5,000 – 6,000 MW. This makes China the world's largest wind energy market – and Freudenberg is playing a key role as a supplier. Every second wind turbine already features a seal product from Freudenberg, "The Chinese wind energy sector is definitely a very interesting growth market for us," says Dr. Jianjun Tao, Sales Manager with Freudenberg NOK Group China.

Freudenberg companies Simrit and Klüber offer tailor-made seal and speciality lubricant solutions under the "Lube & Seal" brand. Customers include Sinovel Windtech and Goldwind, the two Chinese wind energy giants. "The combination of seals and speciality lubricants gives us a clear competitive edge. The two areas are interconnected and we have the competence within the Freudenberg Group to offer tailor-made solutions," says Dr. Tao. Simrit and NOK products have a market share of about a third.

Freudenberg offers its customers individually tailored solutions. Depending on its location, a wind energy facility and the seals fitted to it face different environmental effects. Extreme temperatures and intense solar radiation as well as the forces of nature affect the performance and service life of a seal. In addition, seals must be compatible with the lubricants used. Considering the fact that seals need to ensure maintenance-free operation over a period of several years, it is clear that special materials are called for.

To meet this demanding bundle of requirements, scientists at Freudenberg have developed a new material that features greater temperature and ozone resistance, ensuring a longer service life. Special high-performance materials for the wind power sector are developed and marketed under the Ventoguard brand name. Simrit has already supplied materials with very good application properties for many years. Ventoguard materials have lowered the minimum temperature from minus 30 to minus 49 degrees, significantly extending the range of applications. Despite severely fluctuating weather conditions, for example in Inner Mongolia, where winters are very cold and strong winds frequently occur, continuous operation is possible thanks to products from Freudenberg. The flexibility of the material has been significantly improved. Depending on the temperature, wind speed and operating time, the seal adapts to ensure optimum seal performance at all times. This is a crucial factor in long-term planning. In view of the maintenance expenses for wind farms, seals which remain effective in the long term offer genuine cost benefits.

Flexibility is especially important in China. The Freudenberg Business Groups offer all customers the right solution wherever they are located, for wind farms in Inner Mongolia or Gansu of for the new offshore wind farms in Jiangsu province, where 34 wind turbines produced by Chinese manufacturer Sinovel have already been installed. But it is not only Simrit and Klüber that offer customers tailor-made products. Chem-Trend, another company forming part of the Freudenberg Group, has developed a new series of release agents that offer outstanding performance when removing rotor blades from the mold.

Wind turbine rotor blades have a crucial effect on 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 produced from a number of different composite materials in a complex and demanding process. One of the main challenges is to release the blades from the mold without damaging them. With special release agents from Chem-Trend, it is easier to handle rotor blades and to remove them from the mold.

Thanks to its broad portfolio of products, Freudenberg continues to shoulder its environmental and social responsibility in China and its innovative products are making a significant contribution to environmental protection in the country. China plans to boost the share of renewables in power generation to 15 percent by 2020. In addition, the family company manufactures high-quality products at its Qingpu and Taicang facilities. The customers are Chinese wind turbine producers such as Sinovel Windtech, Goldwind, Baoding Tianwei Wind Power and SEWind. Customers benefit from the high-quality products, services and advice offered by the Freudenberg Group.