The wind industry is a billion dollar business, yet universities and non-profit organizations provide invaluable support through research and development. And somewhere between the universities and nonprofits are the trade organizations, groups such as AWEA, CanWEA, and the Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power. These promote their membership industries all the while recognizing the value of wind power to the U.S. as a source of clean power and a job creator. Here are a few contributions these organizations have recently made.
The Department of Energy announced $900,000 in funding for programs in Austin and College Station, as part of 41 projects across 20 states. The University of Texas is getting $500,000 to evaluate the effects of offshore wind energy facilities on electronic equipment, such as airborne radar and GPS operations. The Texas Engineering Experiment Station in College Station will get $400,000 to build on existing computer models to simulate mooring dynamics of offshore wind turbines. DOE says the funding, over five years, is meant to advance turbine-design tools and hardware, and improve information about offshore wind resources.
A laser-based machine in Iowa State University’s Wind Energy Manufacturing Laboratory can scan the layers of a fiberglass fabric used to make wind turbine blades. A computer then takes the laser readings and calculates how dozens of the layers will fit and flow over the curves of a mold that manufactures the blade. If there is a wrinkle or wave in the fabric, any defect, the laser eye will find it, say developers at the school. Such vision is necessary because a defect in a 40-m blade can lead to failure and damage to the turbine. The engineering team is developing the University’s Wind Energy Manufacturing Lab. The researchers’ goal is to develop new, low-cost manufacturing systems that could improve the productivity of turbine-blade factories by as much as 35%.
A professor at the University of Auckland, New Zealand thinks turbines could soon sport blades that extend and retract to suit wind conditions. In low winds, long blades are useful capturing wind energy from a large swept area and as the wind speed picks up, the blades could retract or shorten to let the turbine function in high wind, possibly more than 25 m/s, the cut out speed for many units. Professor Rajnish Sharma calculated that such a turbine could generate twice as much power over a year as one with a conventional rotor, and run safely in high winds. He built a 1.5 kW prototype and found that in strong winds it generated the same power as a turbine of similar rating and conventional rotor, while in lesser conditions it easily generated more than a rival.
Several years ago Dr. Majid Rashidi, a mechanical engineering professor at Cleveland State University, recognized that air flows faster around the sides of round towers and set out to design pivoting arms that would hold a set of turbines in this high speed wind. Today, Rashidi is designing an improved version of the wind turbine for the Cleveland Indians baseball stadium. The 18-ft-wide helix turbine will be mounted atop of the Indians ballpark March 2012 and will generate about 40,000 kWh/yr, he says. Rashidi’s design features a spiral wind deflector that could be mounted atop of buildings in urban areas, even farm silos and former water towers.
A wind research consortium formed by the University of Minnesota, Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, and the University of Maine, will support wind energy technology research, development, along with career education focused on increasing wind turbine performance and reliability. One early contract by the Eolos Wind Research Project was to test a permanent magnet (PM) generator and power converter system. The generator, from Danotek Motion Technologies, passed a company major milestone following initial successful up-tower operation of its PM generators by a leading wind turbine OEM.
Filed Under: Projects