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Researchers Show Simple But Effective Discoveries That Could Enhance Wind Turbines' Efficiency by 18 Percent


Even though the cost of wind power is in a continuous drop since 2008, more and more researchers aim for reducing it more while at the same time enhancing the efficiency. A couple of teams from the Syracuse University and the University of Minnesota have a few ideas about how to improve wind turbines by modding their blades and how the air flows on them.

One of the approaches, developed by a team from Syracuse (Guannan Wang, Basman El Hadidi, Jakub Walczak, Mark Glauser and Hiroshi Higuchi), estimates the airflow over the blade surfaces and passes the information to a computer that regulates the blades’ angle in real time to increase efficiency, just like an airplane does the opposite to move faster or slower.

Their simulations showed that if the flow control is applied on the outboard side of the blade, beyond the half radius, the operational range of the wind turbine could significantly be increased, without affecting the overall power output.

The researchers at the University of Minnesota (Roger Arndt, Leonardo P. Chamorro and Fotis Sotiropoulos)dealt with another issue of wind: the resistance of the blades to the incoming airflow. They placed tiny triangular-shaped grooves in a coating applied on the blades. Being very shallow (40 to 225 microns), they can’t be seen by the naked eye, but still remain perfectly smooth to the touch.

This micro-grooves approach gave the turbines another 3 percent efficiency, which is much if we think about the numbers on a global scale.

There are certain discoveries that don’t need much expense on the constructor’s side, but yield immense profits after they’re used. This is the case of these two, which can change the wind power industry for the better.

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