General Electric (GE) adds a new dome-shaped object called EcoROTR, which looks like a UFO, to a standard wind turbine and improves its performance by 3 percent.
The addition helps the turbine to capture wind energy that is lost by regular turbines.
GE took up this project as a part of its ecomagination initiative, which started in 2005 and focuses on building green technology. Particularly in the wind sector, the team believes that there is scope to build more efficient technology to harvest more wind as, the present day wind turbines “waste” too much wind. The team dealt with one such wastage. “When the wind hits the center of the wind turbine where the blades are attached, it’s wasted. That’s because the blades are basically levers and the same wind generates more force further from the hub”, says Mike Bowman, the leader of sustainable energy projects at GE Global Research.
The team thought to deflect the wasted wind, which would otherwise have passed right through the blades, from the hub to the blade tips to generate additional energy and came up with this “simple” idea.
GE has installed its experimental add-on, EcoROTR, a 60 ft wide, large spinning silver aluminium dome, to the rotor of the tallest wind turbine – 450 ft tall, 1.7-megawatt prototype turbine – that stood in the California’s Mojave desert outside the city of Tehachapi. “It almost looks as if an UFO got stuck on the face,” says Bowman. “But the dome could be the future of wind”, GE Reports noted.
The company started testing EcoROTR last month. “If the experiments confirm wind tunnel data, the 20,000-pound dome could lead to larger and more efficient turbines for windy locations that are currently too hard to reach for the industry.”, writes GE Reports.
“When we crunched the numbers, we saw up to a 3 percent increase in performance,” Bowman says. “It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s potentially a lot when you apply the savings across an entire wind farm with dozens of turbines.” They are also hoping that this advancement would allow giant wind turbines to be built with significantly shorter blades and thus facilitate easier and much cheaper transportation.
Image (c): GE Reports