February 4, 2014

The US Department of Energy investing $2 million in taller wind turbines

The Department of Energy recently invested $2 million toward increasing the heights of wind turbines to reach higher and more powerful winds.

As wind power in the U.S. continues to grow, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is also trying to increase the size the of wind turbines in the country. On Jan. 30, the DOE announced a plan to invest $2 million to harness more wind energy from wind turbines, reported the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (OEERE). The investment is to improve the ongoing success of wind energy in the U.S., and it will only strengthen wind turbine manufacturing across the nation. The large investment will also continue to expand the geographic range for cost-effective wind farms in the U.S. and it will reduce the cost of clean and renewable wind energy.

The investment supports the DOE's Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative, which will expand the efficiency of the U.S. manufacturing sector while keeping efforts toward clean energy technology made in the country.

Adjusting to the U.S. wind conditions

Areas in the U.S. such as the northeast, southeast and western parts of the country typically have lower or turbulent wind conditions near the ground, which limits the amount of electricity capacity generated from wind power. However, taller wind turbines can better use the stronger, more consistent winds that occur at greater heights and the investment will help increase the number of locations for wind farms.

The average utility-scale wind turbine tower ranges around 90 meters high and the projects supported by the funding will engineer and fabricate tower systems with a minimum hub height of 120 meters, reported the OEERE. The DOE's movement toward higher quality in wind energy efficiency is trying to move to wind turbine hubs up to 140 meters tall. Creating these massive wind turbines will allow operators go generate an additional 1,800 gigawatts in wind power resource potential across 237,000 square-miles of the U.S., which is approximately the size of Texas.

New wind turbine blades to help efficiency too

A newly tested and patent-pending wind turbine blade deflector was invented by researchers at Rutgers University to generate more torque in the blade rotation process. According to Wind Power Engineering, the deflectors have the ability to potentially boost the turbine output in light to mild winds by nearly 20 percent.

“The deflector, not a vortex generator, is based upon a powerful force that other airfoil designs don't address,” Corey Park, CEO of Dynamic Blade Technologies, a company that commercializes new wind turbine and blade inventions, told Wind Power Engineering. “Once the researchers were able to model the drag/lift phenomena, they reshaped the deflector in order to produce a higher torque.”

Experts believe that the new deflectors could provide a similar significant growth in production and possibly higher speeds. With efforts toward higher turbines and more efficient blades, wind energy continues to stand its ground in the renewable energy renaissance.