Jun 25 2016

Longer Blades May Mean More Wind Energy

Commercialization of wind energy may not lie within an increased amount of wind turbines, but increasing the size of wind turbine blades. On average, commercial wind turbine blades have a length of around 35 m to 45 m (NWW). These turbines, while they have been shown to efficiently produce energy in areas with an aptitude for wind turbine placement, have to be placed in large areas in order to provide a large amount of energy. These farms have been shown to have interesting effects on the overall environment over an extended amount of time. Large farms, such as one Germany, have even been shown to effect the water cycle (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology). This has repercussions which can change the environment of the area downwind from the wind farm. Since this is in part what scientists are fighting against with global warming, it is an ecological catch twenty-two.

 

Photo Credit: Andy Hay

Further studies have led to a suggestion of a sort of mega-turbine. This turbine would have blades the length of fifty meters and produce around fifty megawatts of energy (DOE/Sandia Laboratories). Blades such as these would be manufactured using a different process which is more economically feasible. Getting wind energy down to the most inexpensive beginning investment would invite many big investors into or back into the field. Essentially, instead of twenty-five or so smaller turbines, there would be one huge turbine generating the same amount of energy.

Less overall area disturbed on the sea floor through less piles means less impacts on the benthic environments as well as less noise pollution over less of an area. However, larger blades may increase the instances of collision and strike of marine birds due to the increase in the area traveled by the blades. The avoidance problems which can be associated with migratory patterns and environmental impacts of construction and operation may stay the same or intensify. This trade off of more energy for problems we may or may not have presents and interesting conundrum.

In December 2015, New York relied on their wind power to supply an increased amount of energy when one of their major nuclear reactors shut down (Malik). This shows wind energy, even with the technology we have available currently, can be a useful main source of power. Wind energy is a field which can be continuously improved upon and more research should be done about reducing the negative impacts wind turbines can have on the environment.

 

Works Cited

DOE/Sandia National Laboratories. “Enormous blades could lead to more offshore energy in US.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 January 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160128133245.htm>. Accessed 24 June 2016.

“FAQ – Size.” National Wind Watch. National Wind Watch Inc., n.d. Web. 24 June 2016. <https://www.wind-watch.org/faq-size.php>.

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. “Offshore wind parks: Interactions and local climate.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 February 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160229082420.htm>. Accessed 24 June 2016.

Malik, Naureen. “Wind Rescues New York Power After Nuclear Plant Shutdown.” Bloomberg.com. Bloomberg, 15 Dec. 2015. Web. 24 June 2016. <http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-12-15/wind-rescues-new-york-power-prices-after-nuclear-plant-shutdown>.

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