Researchers Seek Improved Turbine Flow

Wind energy, as we know, is a clean and green source of energy–but it’s also fickle, with variations in speed that can lead to less-than-optimal outputs. Now, a new type of wind turbine air-flow technology may soon increase the efficiency of large turbines under a wide range of wind conditions.

At the recent American Physical Society Division of Fluid Dynamics meeting in Long Beach, California, Syracuse University researchers Guannan Wang, Basman El Hadidi, Jakub Walczak, Mark Glauser and Hiroshi Higuchi presented their new intelligent-systems-based active flow control methods for wind turbines, developed with support from the U.S. Department of Energy through the University of Minnesota Wind Energy Consortium.

wind turbine

image via DynGlobal

This approach estimates the flow conditions over the turbine blade surfaces based on surface measurements, then feeds this data to an intelligent controller to implement “real-time actuation on the blades” in order to control the flow of air over the blades and increase the overall efficiency of the system. Researchers also believe this may also reduce excessive noise and vibration from wind turbines (due to airflow separation).

Initial simulation results suggest that flow control applied on the outboard side of the turbine blade beyond the half radius point could significantly enlarge the overall operational range of wind turbines with the same rated power output, or considerably increase the rated output power for the same level of operational range.

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Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.