Personal Growth

Inspired by helicopter blades, this wind turbine would be 25% cheaper

Wind generators are being reinvented left, proper, and heart. A Swedish firm is creating a floating wind turbine system made up of 126 small generators spinning in unison. An American designer has created a wind turbine wall that might be used on the aspect of a freeway. And now, a Dutch firm is helicopter blade know-how to reinvent wind generators.

Seawind Ocean Technologies has developed a twin-blade wind turbine that’s 25% cheaper to put in and function than its standard three-blade counterpart, but produces just about the identical quantity of vitality. Designed to be put in off-shore, the place the wind is normally stronger and extra prevalent, the primary turbine is scheduled to be put in in 2024—bringing to fruition a know-how that was developed nearly 50 years in the past.

[Image: courtesy Seawind]

Back in 1973, when the world was mired an oil disaster, NASA tasked helicopter pioneer Glidden Doman to develop a scalable wind system. Doman, who later went on to cofound Seawind, got here in with a radical concept: to borrow from helicopter rotor dynamics and introduce new wind-turbine know-how designed with two blades, and a intelligent mechanism referred to as a teeter hinge (extra on that later). Three such generators have been manufactured, and one was erected for 4 years on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, however this system was ultimately canceled because of an absence of funding and urgency as oil costs recovered within the ’90s. Similar twin-blade generators have since been erected, however all of them have failed due to one factor: the shortage of teetering.

[Image: courtesy Seawind]

Let’s again up slightly. The aim of a wind turbine is fairly easy: to harness as a lot wind as doable so it might generate as a lot electrical energy as doable. To try this, generators must comply with the path of the wind, and standard wind generators find yourself rotating the whole tower for this. But when the wind will get too robust, because it does in deep waters, generators can solely deal with a lot wind energy earlier than they overheat and cease working, so the precise wind blades must spin round their axis, too, to flatten themselves and cut back the stress on the turbine.

By distinction, Seawind’s system solely rotates on the prime of the turbine, a bit like a sunflower turns its head to face the solar. A easy hinge system helps the turbine head oscillate, or teeter, just a few levels whereas it rotates. “The turbine head is like a sailor because the wind is not a constant animal, it goes up and down,” says Vincent Dewulf, the CEO of Seawind. (A radar on the prime helps measure wind speeds and direct the rotation accordingly.)

[Image: courtesy Seawind]

All of this helps remove the necessity for the blade pitch mechanism, which is advanced, expensive, and one of many important sources of failure in standard generators. That’s why, Dewulf says, that Seawind can produce vitality at a value that’s 25% decrease than different generators—all of the whereas producing nearly the identical quantity of electrical energy as a three-bladed turbine with an analogous diameter. To make up for the slight loss, Dewulf says the size of the blades is elevated by 5 meters, or simply over 16 toes. “A bird with three wings would go further, so we need to have longer wings,” says Dewulf.

[Image: courtesy Seawind]

A twin-blade system comes with many benefits. The blades can rotate quicker as a result of there’s much less air resistance. One fewer blade makes it cheaper and simpler to put in. Coupled with a mechanism that depends on fewer transferring components, easier mechanisms, and even off-the-shelf elements, this implies the generators will likely be simpler to take care of, too. “Once you operate off shore, the last thing you want is to visit your turbine,” says Dewulf, noting that checkups ought to solely be wanted yearly.

So far, Seawind has raised €2.8 million for the primary turbine, although Dewulf says the corporate is within the technique of elevating one other €55 million to fund all certifications, simulations, and the development of the turbine itself.

Maybe now, nearly 50 years after the know-how was first invented, the helicopter-inspired wind generators can lastly see the sunshine of day.

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