The kinetic energy of the wind is converted into electrical energy by a wind turbine. Wind farms, made up of tens of thousands of enormous turbines currently generate more than 650 gigawatts of power annually. This is with another 60 GW coming online each year.
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- Hurricane full-proof wind turbine is now in effect
Wind and solar power are becoming more and more important as intermittent sources of renewable energy in many countries.
Wind turbines come in a broad range of sizes. To generate the most power, the length of a wind turbine’s blades must be taken into account. There are small wind turbines that can power a single home with a 10 kilowatt output (kW).
Up to ten megawatts of power may be generated by the biggest wind turbines now in service. Also, even larger ones are being developed. Large wind turbines are commonly placed together to form wind power plants. This supplies electricity to the networks of countries across the world.
The field of wind technology is expanding, both in terms of scale and scope. To put that in perspective, today’s offshore wind turbines may reach heights of more than 490 feet. Its blades are capable of producing up to 8 megawatts (MW). This is enough to power nearly 4,000 homes across the United States.
However, as they become larger, other problems arise. Atlantis storms are getting stronger and more dangerous. This is bad news for offshore wind turbines and the future of wind energy in the United States.
Hurricane full-proof wind turbine is now in effect
Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) are taking a hint from nature. They are reversing the direction of the turbines to make them more hurricane-resistant. Lucy Pao, Palmer Endowed Chair in Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, remarked, “We are very much bio-inspired by palm trees, which can endure severe storm circumstances.”
The blades of traditional upwind turbines, which face the oncoming wind, must be sufficiently rigid. This is to prevent them from being blown into the tower. Because they are so big and thick, these blades are very expensive. This is because they take a lot of materials to make.
Downwind rotors, on the other hand, have turbine blades that face away from the wind. This reduces the likelihood of them colliding with the tower in high winds. The lighter and more flexible they are, the less material they use. Hence, the lower the cost of making them.
Like palm trees, downwind blades can bend rather than break in the face of heavy gusts.
SUMR (Segmented Ultralight Morphing Rotor) is a two-bladed, downwind rotor. It was developed by Pao’s team in conjunction with partners from Virginia, Texas, Dallas, and Colorado.
53.38 kilowatt demonstrator (SUMR-D)
At the American Control Conference on June 10, CU researchers shared the results of a four-year study of real-world data. This was obtained from testing their 53.38 kilowatt demonstrator (SUMR-D) at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) Flatirons Campus. This is in south of Boulder, Colorado.
They found that their turbine worked well and consistently, which was a satisfying result. This is when there were strong gusts of wind.
With their lightweight and flexible design, the blades are able to adapt to changing wind conditions.” A graduate student in electrical, computer and energy engineering who is a lead author on a new research paper published in Proceedings of the 2022 American Control Conference explained that this approach might help cut down on the cost of the blades and hence lower energy costs.
What a perfect moment for this groundbreaking work to be done. As global temperatures rise, storms will almost certainly get worse. This is because climate change requires a rapid increase in renewable energy sources that are cheaper and more reliable.
NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center says that from June 1 to November 30, there will be more hurricanes than usual in the Atlantic, with up to six major storms with winds of 111 mph or more.
The turbine’s secret brain
One of the most challenging aspects of wind energy generation is coping with either too little or too much wind at the same time. Wind turbines can’t produce a useful quantity of electricity when the wind speeds are too low.
If gusts get too strong, wind turbines can be shut down to keep the system from getting too full.
Wind energy was doomed from the start because wind speed is hard to predict. The extra time it takes to shut down the system means less energy is made and production efficiency is lower.
Pao’s revolutionary contributions are based on the controller. This is the part of the turbine that decides when to produce more or less power.
According to Pao, the study’s principal author and a fellow at the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute. “We prefer to think of controllers as essentially the brains of the system” (RASEI).
The goal of this hidden brain is to provide low-cost and low-wear wind energy at a cheap cost. According to Pao, the feedback controller uses measurements of the system’s performance and makes adjustments to enhance it.
In order to ensure that the turbine is pointing in the right direction, yaw controllers, blade pitch controllers, and generator torque controllers all work together to calculate how much electricity to draw from the turbine and into the grid.
These controllers are basically software algorithms that tell the turbine’s motors what to do, even though they control the turbine’s physical components.
Pao’s team is hard at work on the system’s software to make it able to keep running even during the strongest gusts of wind. This is in addition to turning the turbine to protect it from high winds.
Scaling up wind power throughout the world
According to Phadnis, we try to anticipate the possibility or probability of peak wind gusts happening and then act to reduce the speed peaks before they happen.
As a result of its location right across Highway 93 from Eldorado Canyon, NREL’s Flatirons Campus was an ideal test site for this experiment since it receives the powerful winds that blast out onto the mesa from that direction.
Even after a lot of testing, researchers found that their operational controller couldn’t keep the turbine running, even at the highest speeds.
German researchers from the University of Oldenburg have been working with Pao’s team to figure out how useful sensors that scan in front of the turbine to measure how much wind is coming in and better controllers that tell the turbine to act in a proactive way are.
There may not be a huge market for downwind or two-bladed wind turbines, but Pao believes that by putting these prototypes to the test in a real environment, researchers might gain a greater understanding of the possibilities.
Traditional upwind turbines with three blades, which are the most common type on land and at sea, might be able to use the control algorithms they’ve made.
According to Pao, “The advantage of the downwind layout, however, really comes into play when you get to extremely large turbines, and they are mostly used offshore.”
Large offshore SUMR (downwind) turbines
In Pao’s group, these lofty goals are already being pursued: Large offshore SUMR (downwind) turbines of 25 MW and 50 MW have been planned and modeled with the help of their colleagues, but they have not been tested in the real world.
In the end, she thinks that a combination of better controllers, lighter and more robust materials, and clever turbine layouts might allow big offshore turbines to outperform their competitors.
A single large turbine would be cheaper and use less energy than a group of smaller ones. It would also be able to catch faster wind speeds higher up and stand up to the bad weather that is expected to come.
“We want our new concept blades to have a comparable lengthy lifespan,” added Pao. “Wind turbine blades are normally meant to endure at least 20 years.”
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