Two recent stories illustrate how far wind power can go in terms of efficiency and mechanics.
First, let’s take a look at what Japanese researchers have come up with.
According to Mother Nature Network, scientists at Kyushu University in Japan have come up with an aerodynamic innovation in wind turbine design called ‘wind lens’. Its main selling point is that it can triple the output of a standard wind turbine. This way, wind power becomes more competitive than nuclear, they said.
The mechanism of the turbine is simple. What makes it different and exciting is that the ‘wind lens’ can make the turbine rotate at a much higher speed (the video below explains in more detail the technical details).
In Japan wind power energy accounts for only 0.3 per cent of the country’s power generation. But as the country moves away from nuclear in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, it is looking at ways to make its energy mix more reliant on alternative energy.
Elsewhere, Marcio Loos, a Case Western Reserve University researcher, has built a prototype blade that is substantially lighter and eight times tougher and more durable than currently used blade materials, wrote Renewable Energy World.
The weight of large wind turbines is one of the challenges faced by the industry. Simply increasing the size of blades will not work because they will need more wind to turn the rotor. And they lose optimal shape to catch moving air as they flex with the wind. Working on better materials seems to be the best bet.
Loos built the first polyurethane blade reinforced with carbon nanotubes. He carried out a series of tests to make sure “the composite that was scoring best on preliminary tests could be molded into the right shape and maintain properties.” He used a small commercial blade as a template to manufacture a 29-inch blade which was simultaneously lighter, tougher and more rigid.
Preliminary tests showed that carbon nanotubes are lighter and more resistant than other materials such as aluminium and carbon fiber. The hope is that the material will be used in next generation wind turbine blades.
Article by Antonio Pasolini, a Brazilian writer and video art curator based in London, UK. He holds a BA in journalism and an MA in film and television.