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posted by hubie on Saturday June 18 2022, @04:07AM   Printer-friendly
from the land-where-palm-trees-sway dept.

Inspired by palm trees, scientists develop hurricane-resilient wind turbines:

Wind technology is growing—literally. Today's offshore wind turbines can tower more than 490 feet above ground, their spinning blades churning out up to 8 megawatts (MW) each—about enough to power 4000 homes in the U.S.

But with their increasing size comes challenges. Off the east coast, where offshore turbines are located in the U.S., increasingly powerful Atlantic hurricanes pose risks to the structures themselves and to the future of wind energy. To make those turbines more hurricane-resilient, a team of CU Boulder researchers are taking a cue from nature and turning the turbine around.

"We are very much bio-inspired by palm trees, which can survive these hurricane conditions," said Lucy Pao, Palmer Endowed Chair in the Department of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering.

Traditional upwind turbines face the incoming wind, and to avoid being blown into the tower, their blades must be sufficiently stiff. It requires a lot of material to build these relatively thick and massive blades, which drives up their cost. Turbine blades on downwind rotors, however, face away from the wind, so there's less risk of them hitting the tower when the winds pick up. This means they can be lighter and more flexible, which requires less material and therefore less money to make. These downwind blades can also then bend instead of break in the face of strong winds—much like palm trees.

[...] Ultimately, she believes a combination of improved controllers, lighter and resilient materials, and strategic turbine configurations could allow for giant offshore turbines to outpace the competition. They're not only more cost-effective and energy efficient, allowing for one big turbine instead of many smaller ones (which would reduce installation and maintenance costs), and able to capture faster wind speeds higher off the ground, but they could also withstand the more severe weather sure to come.

"Wind turbine blades are typically designed to last at least 20 years, and we want our novel concept blades to achieve similarly long lifetimes," said Pao.

Accompanying video.

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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by MostCynical on Saturday June 18 2022, @07:31AM (2 children)

    by MostCynical (2589) on Saturday June 18 2022, @07:31AM (#1254184) Journal

    Push propellers have been a thing in shipping for decades

    Flexible struts are a thing in kite building some types of glider wing.

    I could never figure out why they made turbines follow the wind like old fashioned windmills... without the sail plane, it has always required huge motors to turn the turbine to face the wind, as the blades are being pushed 'back'..

    With the turbine allowed to be behind the pivot, far less effort is required to keep the blades in the direction of the wind - it is where they naturally want to be!

    "I guess once you start doubting, there's no end to it." -Batou, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
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  • (Score: 3, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 18 2022, @08:32AM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 18 2022, @08:32AM (#1254189)

    There are four main reasons. Upwind turbines with powered yaw systems simplify the nacelle coupling to the mast and allow more power flow. Upwind turbines are quieter by a surprisingly large amount. Upwind turbines are more efficient and get quite a bit more power in the same wind. To contrast, downwind turbines also tend to wear out faster for a variety of reasons.

    • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 18 2022, @12:09PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 18 2022, @12:09PM (#1254209)

      > Upwind turbines are quieter

      I believe this is because the blades don't pass through the turbulent wake downstream of the tower.
      A round tower will shed von Karman vortexes, []