Engineering Wind Energy – The Latest in Turbine Technology
It has never been more important to harness our natural resources for energy. According to online magazine “Inside Science,” wind power could provide enough energy for the entire planet. The United States is looking to produce 20 percent of its energy with wind turbines by 2030, and technology is advancing to meet that demand.
New Designs For A New Goal
Engineers have been working on turbine designs that are more efficient and harness more energy. One new design is the lateral axis, where blades rotate in an ellipsis around the central shaft. This allows them to move in the direction of the wind. They are also quieter and cheaper to produce, according to a report by Transparency Market Research.
The report predicts that the lateral axis design will be successful in rural areas, particularly in North America and Europe due to heavy government investment in the technology.
Another new design employs biomimicry to get the most out of wind energy. Engineering company Tyer Wind has come up with a turbine modeled after hummingbird wings, following the same 3-D figure eight pattern. The design is still being tested for energy efficiency, but it already has the advantage of being smaller than your average wind turbine. This means that it is cheaper to mass produce, and more can be used in one space, producing more total energy.
Challenges to Wind Energy
Of course, there are still obstacles to the widespread adoption of wind energy. To meet its 2030 objective, the U.S. Department of Energy will need to ensure that 7,000 new wind turbines are installed per year. Some communities may be opposed to this kind of expansion – a common complaint is the noise produced by the turbines, which can disturb sleep and cause other health problems. But studies show that community involvement, and especially community investment, can help mitigate those issues for the people affected by them.
In the places that are currently the most common sites for wind turbines, the American Midwest and Northeast, it is the weather that actually poses a problem. Freezing temperatures in winter cause ice to build up on the blades, damaging the turbine and posing a safety hazard to people and property. Researchers at Iowa State University are already working on a solution to that, though. The true test of wind viability is its ability to produce sufficient power in places with low or average levels of wind – places like the American South, for instance, or Assam in northeastern India, where researchers are tackling this issue. If these challenges can be overcome, wind turbines may very well be the future of energy around the world.