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Wind Farm Design Borrows Strategy from Schooling Fish

Last year, the United States overtook Germany to become the largest producer of wind energy in the world. This capped a five year expansion of U.S. wind power during which capacity increased by about a third every year.

Robert Whittlesey and John Dabiri of the California Institute of Technology have developed a potentially more efficient wind farm design that maximizes the efficiency of land usage. They based their approach on the way that fish school, which they will present later this month at the 62nd Annual Meeting of the American Physical Society's (APS) Division of Fluid Dynamics will take place from November 22-24 at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

"When fish swim, they shed tiny vortices in their wake," says Dabiri. "By schooling together, they can potentially help each other swim by transferring energy between one another through these vortices."

Applying these same principles, Whittlesey and Dabiri have designed a wind farm of closely-spaced vertical-axis turbines (a design different from the more familiar propeller-type horizontal axis wind turbines). Their farm is arranged with the turbines closely spaced, so that as each is turned by the wind, it both extracts energy for itself and also helps to direct the flow of wind to the other turbines.

They made measurements of turbines designed by a Southern California energy company and fed the data into a computer model designed to optimally space the turbines. Their computations show that the power-per-acre of a wind farm could be increased a hundredfold. Next, the researchers will build a test field with real turbines and make actual energy production measurements.

The presentation "Fish schooling as a basis for wind farm design" by Robert Whittlesey and John Dabiri of the California Institute of Technology is scheduled for 5:19 p.m. on Monday, November 23, 2009.


The 62nd Annual DFD Meeting is largest scientific meeting of the year devoted to the fluid dynamics, it brings together researchers from around the globe to present work with applications in engineering, energy, physics, climate, astronomy, medicine, and mathematics. It will be held at the Minneapolis Convention Center in downtown Minneapolis. All meeting information, including directions to the Convention Center is at:
Credentialed full-time journalist and professional freelance journalists working on assignment for major publications or media outlets are invited to attend the conference free of charge. If you are a reporter and would like to attend, please contact Jason Bardi (, 301-209-3091).
Main meeting Web site:
Searchable form:
Local Conference Meeting Website:
PDF of Meeting Abstracts:
Division of Fluid Dynamics page:
Virtual Press Room: SEE BELOW
The APS Division of Fluid Dynamics Virtual Press Room will contain tips on dozens of stories as well as stunning graphics and lay-language papers detailing some of the most interesting results at the meeting. Lay-language papers are roughly 500 word summaries written for a general audience by the authors of individual presentations with accompanying graphics and multimedia files. The Virtual Press Room will serve as starting points for journalists who are interested in covering the meeting but cannot attend in person. See:

Currently, the Division of Fluid Dynamics Virtual Press Room contains information related to the 2008 meeting. In mid-November, the Virtual Press Room will be updated for this year's meeting, and another news release will be sent out at that time.

A reserved workspace with wireless internet connections will be available for use by reporters. It will be located in the meeting exhibition hall (Ballroom AB) at the Minneapolis Convention Center on Sunday and Monday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and on Tuesday from 8:00 a.m. to noon. Press announcements and other news will be available in the Virtual Press Room.
Every year, the APS Division of Fluid Dynamics hosts posters and videos that show stunning images and graphics from either computational or experimental studies of flow phenomena. The outstanding entries, selected by a panel of referees for artistic content, originality and ability to convey information, will be honored during the meeting, placed on display at the Annual APS Meeting in March of 2010, and will appear in the annual Gallery of Fluid Motion article in the September 2010 issue of the journal Physics of Fluids.

This year, selected entries from the 27th Annual Gallery of Fluid Motion will be hosted as part of the Fluid Dynamics Virtual Press Room. In mid-November, when the Virtual Press Room is launched, another announcement will be sent out.

The Division of Fluid Dynamics of the American Physical Society exists for the advancement and diffusion of knowledge of the physics of fluids with special emphasis on the dynamical theories of the liquid, plastic and gaseous states of matter under all conditions of temperature and pressure.

Jason Socrates Bardi | Newswise Science News
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