Jul 21 2012

Technological Crossover

Published by under Student blog entries

Following up on the concept of larger turbines presented by Annie in her post, several issues are presented with the creation of supersized turbines.

Modeling performed by the EU-backed Upwind research project (http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2012/07/wind-turbine-blades-push-size-limits) shows that while a turbine capable of generating 10 or even 20MW is theoretically feasible, and appropriate materials could be innovated for, technological and mechanical limitations still exist.

Turbine blades are engineered with a specific camber that changes over the length of the blade to maximize efficiency, but (returning to the above article) to even further optimize the harnessing of energy from the wind, these blades should be able to adjust camber depending on wind speed. As the area covered by the blades increases as the square of the radius, the length of each blade, the effect of cambered blades would be four times that of a turbine with half the diameter.

But wind energy is not the only area in which dynamic foils are being developed. The America’s Cup sailboats sail with a three-dimensional rigid wing sail. The BMW Oracle defender boat developed the sail for the 2010 (33rd) edition of the Cup.[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dySXmkAEy1A[/youtube] This year’s cup is being raced in 72-foot boats which all feature a similar version of the wing sail. But the rules of the event give very specific restrictions on the shape and weight of the sail. (If BMW-Oracle were to share their data on the “sail,” which has several joints allowing for the manipulation of the camber in the foil, wind turbine engineers might be able to use that research to begin the development of adjustable turbine blades that could adapt to changing wind conditions, theoretically increasing the range of viable windspeeds.

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