The U.S. wind power sector benefited from the 8,358 megawatts (MW) of wind power capacity that was installed last year. The total U.S. installed wind power is 25,170 MW, making it the country with the most wind power. Despite the current economic crisis, there is good news for the U.S. wind power sector: R&D is paving the way for increased efficiency in wind power.
Researchers from Purdue University and Sandia National Laboratories developed a technique to monitor wind forces wielded against wind turbine blades. The research was presented in a paper earlier this month at the Windpower 2009 Conference & Exhibition in Chicago.
The monitoring technique will help improve efficiency by providing information on wind conditions, which can help prevent damage to wind turbines from high winds. The researchers embedded sensors inside the turbine blades. The blades themselves have flaps like an airplane’s wings which could be changed to respond to wind changes.
“The ultimate goal is to feed information from sensors into an active control system that precisely adjusts components to optimize efficiency,” said Purdue doctoral student Jonathan White, who is leading the research with Douglas Adams, a Purdue professor.
“The aim is to operate the generator and the turbine in the most efficient way, but this is difficult because wind speeds fluctuate,” Adams said. “You want to be able to control the generator or the pitch of the blades to optimize energy capture by reducing forces on the components in the wind turbine during excessively high winds and increase the loads during low winds. In addition to improving efficiency, this should help improve reliability.”
On Tuesday the U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the Department of Energy (DOE) is providing $25 million for a Wind Technology Testing Center in Massachusetts. The Center will be located at Boston Autoport in Boston Harbor, close to offshore wind resources and a 1,200 foot dock. It will be the first commercial large blade test facility, and will test blades longer than 50 meters. Currently such testing can only be done in Europe.
Testing commercial-sized wind turbine blades will help reduce cost, make improvements, and spur development of next generation wind turbine blades. Construction will begin in September and is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2010.
“As the world moves toward a significant expansion in wind power, the test blade facility will help make sure that the best, most efficient wind turbines are built right here in America,” Secretary Chu said.
“The clean energy technology sector is taking root and growing in Massachusetts, and hosting a national wind technology testing center will be a big boost,” said Governor Patrick. “Testing the next generation of wind turbines here will make Massachusetts a hub for the fastest-growing energy source in the world.”
Akron, Ohio based Green Energy Technologies claims it developed smaller wind turbines that can be installed on commercial rooftops. The 60 kilowatt WindCube turbine system features 15 foot long blades. Wind turbines on wind farms can have blades 230 feet long. The WindCube’s turbine is mounted inside a funnel, which will help reduce noise pollution. It produces about 160,000 KW hours a year, enough to power 14 homes.
“Now building owners anywhere can consider being a part of the renewable energy picture,” said Mark L. Cironi, president and founder of Green Energy Technologies, and with John W. Fedor, the technology’s inventor. “With WindCube, it’s not necessary to have the wind of Kansas or Nebraska to become a generator of wind power. In states with excellent renewable energy incentives, moderate wind and high electric rates, the payback can be as little as three years.”