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Cheaper, Quieter, More Efficient Wind Turbines Coming Soon to a Rooftop Near You

new research leads to more efficient, less expensive wind turbinesThe Fluid Dynamics Division of the American Physical Society is meeting in California this week, and the event promises a glimpse at the next generation of high-efficiency, low-noise wind turbines. Although it may seem like a case of gilding the lily – APS notes that the U.S. has been adding more wind generating capacity than coal for the past two years – researchers anticipate new advances in wind turbine design that will significantly lower the cost of wind power production. That’s not just great news for grid-connected power users, but it could also help boost micro-wind turbines into the affordability range for many more households and businesses.

Wind Turbines and Turbulence

Variations in air flow have a big effect on wind turbine efficiency. Turbines perform best when air flow is constant, a condition rarely achieved in nature.  One new technology under development at Syracuse University addresses the issue with a “smart” flow controller, which adjusts the turbine blades to compensate for gusts, turbulence, and other variations. Researchers anticipate that the system could also help reduce noise and vibration.

Wind Turbines and Drag

Meanwhile over at the University of Minnesota, researchers are developing a unique blade surface to reduce drag, consisting of small, shallow triangular grooves or riblets.  This approach has been used on the sails on America’s Cup yachts, as well as on aircraft. Though the factors affecting wind turbine blades will differ, based on a drag reduction of 6 percent achieved by the use of riblets on aircraft, the researchers expect a significant savings.

Image:  Wind turbines by the russians are here on flickr.com.


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Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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