Scientists develop new turbines that bend in strong winds like palm trees

Scientists are developing hurricane-resilient wind turbines inspired by palm trees with blades that bend instead of break in the face of strong winds.

In the new study, presented at the 2022 American Control Conference, researchers described a new turbine with a two-bladed, downwind rotor to test the performance of this lightweight concept in action.

The blades are manufactured to be lightweight and very flexible, so they can align with the wind loads. That way, we can reduce the cost of the blades and bring down the cost of energy - Lead Author of the Study

When wind speeds are too low, turbines can’t produce a useful amount of energy. During harsh winds that push the limits of a turbine’s capacity, it may cause them to shut down to avoid a system overload.

In the new innovation, scientists have made changes to the controller, a part of the turbine that determines when to be more or less aggressive in power production.

Scientists used the controller to predict the likelihood or the probability of peak wind gusts occurring, to try and mitigate peaks in wind speed by “acting before they happen.”

Combination of improved controllers, lighter and resilient materials, and strategic turbine configurations can lead to cost-effective and energy efficient turbines.

With hurricane activity projected to increase due to human-driven climate change, such turbines capable of withstanding severe weather can be implemented to capture faster wind speeds higher off the ground.


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