Sunday, March 04, 2007

Curved blades could increase wind turbine efficiency

Sandia National Laboratories and wind-blade manufacturer Knight & Carver have teamed up to develop a more efficient blade for wind turbines. They've discovered that by slightly arching the blade, they're able to capture more energy at lower wind speeds. Structural engineer Tom Ashwill told the New Mexico Business Weekly:
"Because of the blade's bent nature, it twists more when hit by gusty winds. Turbines get hammered and shaken by wind, but if we can get the blades to twist more, it reduces the load on the turbines. And, once we reduce the load, we can place longer blades on the turbines to capture more wind energy."
What does this mean for the wind industry? Turbines with this new design could capture 5 - 10 percent more energy and operate more efficiently in areas that have typically lower wind speeds. Normally, turbines should be located in areas with average wind speeds between 15 and 18 mph. But the new blades - called sweep twist adaptive rotors, or STAR blades - can be sited in areas with average wind speeds of just 13 mph, thereby opening up new markets for the wind power industry and new opportunities for wind developers both large and small to capitalize on renewable energy.

Knight & Carver is currently testing long-term fatigue on the blades and expects to be installing them by late summer. Best of all, STAR blades can be retrofitted on old turbines, improving their efficiency.

Photo credit: Sandia National Laboratories

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