Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

'Smart turbine blades' to improve wind power

05.05.2009
Researchers have developed a technique that uses sensors and computational software to constantly monitor forces exerted on wind turbine blades, a step toward improving efficiency by adjusting for rapidly changing wind conditions.

The research by engineers at Purdue University and Sandia National Laboratories is part of an effort to develop a smarter wind turbine structure.

"The ultimate goal is to feed information from sensors into an active control system that precisely adjusts components to optimize efficiency," said Purdue doctoral student Jonathan White, who is leading the research with Douglas Adams, a professor of mechanical engineering and director of Purdue's Center for Systems Integrity.

The system also could help improve wind turbine reliability by providing critical real-time information to the control system to prevent catastrophic wind turbine damage from high winds.

"Wind energy is playing an increasing role in providing electrical power," Adams said. "The United States is now the largest harvester of wind energy in the world. The question is, what can be done to wind turbines to make them more efficient, more cost effective and more reliable?"

The engineers embedded sensors called uniaxial and triaxial accelerometers inside a wind turbine blade as the blade was being built. The blade is now being tested on a research wind turbine at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agriculture Research Service laboratory in Bushland, Texas. Personnel from Sandia and the USDA operate the research wind turbines at the Texas site.

Such sensors could be instrumental in future turbine blades that have "control surfaces" and simple flaps like those on an airplane's wings to change the aerodynamic characteristics of the blades for better control. Because these flaps would be changed in real time to respond to changing winds, constant sensor data would be critical.

"This is a perfect example of a partnership between a national lab and an academic institution to develop innovations by leveraging the expertise of both," said Jose R. Zayas, manager of Sandia's Wind Energy Technology Department.

Research findings show that using a trio of sensors and "estimator model" software developed by White accurately reveals how much force is being exerted on the blades. Purdue and Sandia have applied for a provisional patent on the technique.

Findings are detailed in a paper being presented Monday (May 4) during the Windpower 2009 Conference & Exhibition in Chicago. The paper was written by White, Adams and Sandia engineer Mark A. Rumsey and Zayas. The four-day conference, organized by the American Wind Energy Association, attracts thousands of attendees and is geared toward industry.

"Industry is most interested in identifying loads, or forces, exerted on turbine blades and predicting fatigue, and this work is a step toward accomplishing that," White said.

A wind turbine's major components include rotor blades, a gearbox and generator. The wind turbine blades are made primarily of fiberglass and balsa wood and occasionally are strengthened with carbon fiber.

"The aim is to operate the generator and the turbine in the most efficient way, but this is difficult because wind speeds fluctuate," Adams said. "You want to be able to control the generator or the pitch of the blades to optimize energy capture by reducing forces on the components in the wind turbine during excessively high winds and increase the loads during low winds. In addition to improving efficiency, this should help improve reliability. The wind turbine towers can be 200 feet tall or more, so it is very expensive to service and repair damaged components."

Sensor data in a smart system might be used to better control the turbine speed by automatically adjusting the blade pitch while also commanding the generator to take corrective steps.

"We envision smart systems being a potentially huge step forward for turbines," said Sandia's Rumsey. "There is still a lot of work to be done, but we believe the payoff will be great. Our goal is to provide the electric utility industry with a reliable and efficient product. We are laying the groundwork for the wind turbine of the future."

Sensor data also will be used to design more resilient blades.

The sensors are capable of measuring acceleration occurring in various directions, which is necessary to accurately characterize the blade's bending and twisting and small vibrations near the tip that eventually cause fatigue and possible failure.

The sensors also measure two types of acceleration. One type, the dynamic acceleration, results from gusting winds, while the other, called static acceleration, results from gravity and the steady background winds. It is essential to accurately measure both forms of acceleration to estimate forces exerted on the blades. The sensor data reveal precisely how much a blade bends and twists from winds.

The research is ongoing, and the engineers are now pursuing the application of their system to advanced, next-generation turbine blades that are more curved than conventional blades. This more complex shape makes it more challenging to apply the technique.

In 2008 the United States added 8,358 megawatts of new wind-power capacity, which equates to thousands of new turbines since the average wind turbine generates 1.5 megawatts. The new capacity increased the total U.S. installed wind power to 25,170 megawatts, surpassing Germany's capacity as the world's largest harvester of wind power.

"Our aim is to do two things - improve reliability and prevent failure - and the most direct way to enable those two capabilities is by monitoring forces exerted on the blades by winds," Adams said.

The research is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy through Sandia National Laboratories. Sandia is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corp., a Lockheed Martin Co., for the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration under contract DE-AC04-94AL85000.

Writer: Emil Venere, 765-494-4709, venere@purdue.edu
Sources: Douglas Adams, 765-496-6033, deadams@purdue.edu
Jonathan R. White, 765-449-4809, JonWhite@purdue.edu
Mark Rumsey, 505-844-3910, marumse@sandia.gov
Jose R. Zayas, 505-284-9446, jrzayas@sandia.gov
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu

Emil Venere | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.purdue.edu
http://news.uns.purdue.edu/x/2009a/090501AdamsWind.html

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Did you know that the wrapping of Easter eggs benefits from specialty light sources?
13.04.2017 | Heraeus Noblelight GmbH

nachricht To e-, or not to e-, the question for the exotic 'Si-III' phase of silicon
05.04.2017 | Carnegie Institution for Science

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Bare bones: Making bones transparent

27.04.2017 | Life Sciences

Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions

27.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

From volcano's slope, NASA instrument looks sky high and to the future

27.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>