As the demand for renewable energy increases, the examination of wind-generated energy has taken the forefront in green energy technology. The rapidly developing wind technology currently on deck, and in the works, offers everything from storable energy to wind turbines that have the capacity to generate energy without blade rotation. Following are some of the most innovative and effective wind technologies that are either already in the works, or in the development stages.
GE’s New Turbine and Monitoring Technology
When most people think of wind technology, they automatically think of the creation of energy, but rarely do they consider the importance of monitoring technology to ensure efficiency and safety. One of the powerful and innovative solutions in the rapid development of green technology has been presented by GE. While the concept is simple, the benefit is immeasurable in the increased energy production and efficiency that this latest innovation will provide. The blade extension design presented by GE increases the rotor dimensions of the 1.5-MW SLE turbines from 77 meters to 91 meters.
The new design requires that the original blades be cut in half and rejoined with a seven-meter extension in between them. Understanding that GE has installed more than 9,000 SLE turbines across the U.S., this new innovation can help increase the capacity to generate energy by as much as 40 percent — increasing total energy production by more than 20 percent under normal wind speed conditions.
In addition to the modification of the turbines, GE also announced the expansion of its current monitoring platform — with the introduction of wake management monitoring software, which reduces wake loss and optimizes the performance of the turbines.
With an idea of minimizing the cost of technology advancement, one concept that is gaining momentum is the use of turbine modification and the refurbishing of turbines. In situations like this, older turbines are being refitted with more modernized control systems. In many of the cases of modification and refurbishment, the turbines may be 25-years-old, and these modifications, allow these older machines to continue to serve the wind technology market with effectiveness. One of the leaders in this endeavor is Tenderland Renewables, and they have been successful in refurbishing a number of older turbines, such as the 160kW Danwind 23E, and older model Danish-designed turbine. Tenderland was able to improve the functionality of this older model by redesigning the geared drivetrain layout.
Smaller Turbine Offerings
Currently, the suppliers of smaller turbines, up to 100 kW, has been extremely limited; however, Hummer, a China-based company has shown substantial promise in delivering turbine models with ratings up to 100 kW. The models that they have presented, to this point, show promise as the blueprint that other suppliers will likely follow in the coming years.
One of the most common arguments against wind technology has been that the turbines are an eyesore, and they destroy the aesthetic appeal of natural landscapes. The higher the tower, the more of a negative impact the turbines have on the landscape. The high towers have become a main focus of the onshore wind industry. For instance, in Europe, the use of concrete-steel hybrid towers has become a common solution to the concern about visual appeal. Both, Lagerwey and Siemens, have developed turbine designs with alternative bolted steel towers.
GE has also developed a five-legged Space Frame Tower that reduces the height of the tower to 139 meters.
When some people think of the future of wind technology, they see it quite differently than most people. There is a growing interest in bladeless turbines, which experts say has the potential to be less expensive than the current turbine designs, as well as being significantly more efficient. Saphon, is a company out of Tunisia that is currently looking to partner with companies that have an interest in mass producing and marketing a unique device that is designed to convert wind energy into renewable energy. This zero-blade technology is inspired by physics associated with sailboating and the manner in which wind energy is used to propel a sailboat, event against the wind itself.
With this new innovative design, the blades are removed and replaced with body that is shaped like a sail, and all of the inner workings are removed.
According to the developers of this new technology, this new turbine has the capacity to overcome what is known as the Betz’ limit, which suggests that it is impossible for any turbine to capture more than 59.3 percent of the kinetic energy created by the wind. On average, most turbines are able to capture between 30 and 40 percent of the wind’s kinetic energy, while this new design by Saphon is 2.5 times more efficient in its performance.
In addition to the increased performance of the zero-blade model, the cost to manufacture these new turbines is projected to be 45 percent less than conventional turbine models. The majority of the savings in cost is due to the absence of blades, the gear box and hub.
Another way that the new zero-blade technology is different is in the area of storage. The vast majority of the kinetic energy captured by this turbine can be stored or converted into electricity. Storage capacity is achieved through the use of a hydraulic accumulator.
The company is currently looking for manufacturing partners who have the capacity to mass produce these new innovative turbines. If they are able to find the right partners, this technology is extremely promising in the way of sustainable energy production and cost reduction in wind technology.
There is no shortage of studies and reports that make it clear that the creation of sustainable energy technology is paramount to sustaining life as we know it. Wind technology is one of the cleanest forms of energy production currently on deck. Some of the challenges to wind energy in the past have been the lack of efficiency, poor storage capacity and the negative visual impact on the natural landscape, but many of the new innovations currently on deck or on the horizon, confront these challenges head on. The future of wind technology is definitely looking bright.
Written by Garrett Parker
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