wind turbines


Build a Better Wind Farm and the Watts Will Beat a Path to Your Door

High-tech imaging helps Colorado researchers catch the wind

Wind power has come a long way but maximizing the output of even modern wind farms is still a challenge.

It isn’t enough to buy a slew of multi-megawatt turbines and stake them on a windy hillside. You have to know how the wind behaves, not only going into the turbine but the “wake” coming out the backside. Otherwise, you can get more windstorm than wattage. It’s a new area of research and it got help this week from scientists who literally “look” at the wind.

Speaking at the American Geophysical Union (#AGU11) here in San Francisco, Julie Lundquist from the University of Colorado, Boulder, offered up her team’s images of a wind turbine’s wake. Using Doppler Lidar — think police radar gun — she showed us the color-coded flow: a slower, cool-colored wake at the center just behind the turbine, surrounded by the warmer-colored fast flow swirling around it. Continue reading

Making Wind Power More Efficient: Lessons from Fish

A possible game changer in wind technology with an unlikely inspiration

Vertical-axis wind turbines at a CalTech test site in northern Los Angeles County.

Most of the wind turbines you see driving throughout the deserts and hill country of California look pretty much the same: soaring towers hundreds of feet high with massive, pinwheel-like structures on top, blades churning (or not) as the wind blows (or not).

But there’s another design for generating wind power that, if new research proves correct, could eventually become a far more common sight as California ramps up its portfolio of renewable energy. Vertical axis wind turbines look a little like upside-down egg beaters. They tend to be smaller than traditional turbines, and therefore less powerful. But according to John Dabiri, head of Caltech’s Biological Propulsion Lab, they can be far more efficient at generating power than traditional turbines are when they’re used together in just the right way.

Dabiri said the problem with standard turbines is that the turbulence or “wake” from the turning of one turbine disrupts airflow and reduces the performance of surrounding turbines.  Locating them within 300 feet of each other can reduce performance by 20-50%, said Dabiri. That means standard wind farms need a lot of land. Continue reading