Wind Turbine Retrofits Increase Their Efficiency

May 29, 2014 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

Over the course of the last 30 years wind energy has grown to be a contributing player in the world of energy production. Day by day the newest, most advanced wind turbines are coming online across the world. While those new turbines can generate significant energy, older models aren’t as efficient and upgrades haven’t been cost effective – until now.

According to a recent report, GE (who boasts a sizeable share of the wind turbine market) has introduced a cost effective method for retrofitting older, smaller wind turbines and make them more efficient.

Central to GE’s retrofit is the idea that wind turbines become more effective energy generators as their blades grow longer and their towers grow taller. As making older wind turbines taller isn’t qui te feasible, GE’s engineering team developed a new method for lengthening older turbines’ blades.

Though at first it might seem a simple matter to add an extension to the middle or end of a turbine blade, careful attention to a system’s delicate aerodynamics and weight ratio are critical to a retrofit’s success.

To achieve their efficiency goals, GE’s design team decided to cut their 37-meter (120ft) long blade in half and insert a 7-meter (23ft) long composite extension between the two sections. Thoroughly tested for aerodynamic efficiency and lifetime fatigue, the GE retrofit project has already generated 16 separate patent applications and a full 20% increase in efficiency.

Though wind energy is still too expensive and weak to be a major player in the global energy infrastructure, GE’s new retrofit is making the case that turbines can adapt to technological developments. If retrofits of this order can continue down the line wind energy can steadily move towards an even greater stake in the renewable energy sector.

 

Image and Video Courtesy of GE

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