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Wind Turbines Get an Efficiency Boost from Recycled ‘Spillage’

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3-windturbinesEngineer from University of Nebraska-Lincoln has designed a system that can boost the efficiency of wind turbines by recycling “mechanical spillage”.

Wind power is one of the lead renewable energy sources around the world. Regardless of all accusations about noise, and looks, and all the rest, wind turbines are still generating clean energy and therefore they will be the much better choice than any fossil fuel plant.

But just as it is with solar, wind power is not the most reliable of all sources, simply because the amount of energy that is being generated depends on natural winds, which cannot be controlled. In addition to this, there are also mechanical factors that limit wind power generation. First, the rotors in wind turbines can capture at best just under 60% of the kinetic energy from wind, and second, wind turbines, regardless of how modern they are, have certain capacity that corresponds to certain wind speeds (and not higher), and that’s all they can do.

A doctoral student from University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Jie Cheng, has designed a prototype of a wind turbine that can take care of the above limitations, giving a significant boost to the total electricity production. Cheng’s system is capable of producing extra 16,400 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month, which is about the amount of electricity that is used monthly by 18 average households.

The additional energy is produced from the so-called “mechanical spillage“, or the energy which is purposefully lost by the wind turbines at high wind speeds in order to prevent mechanical damage. The new prototype has an air compression tank, which collects this spillage and stores it until the wind speeds are low and the turbines are not operating at maximum capacity. This is the point when the stored air is released and converted into electricity by the turbines.

According to the engineer, his prototype would be beneficial to many areas around the world where there are calm and extreme wind periods.

Details about the prototype can be found in the study published in the Journal of Power and Energy Engineering.

Image (c) Troy Fedderson/University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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