More Productive Wind Turbines

More Productive Wind Turbines

GE Global Research and Sandia National Laboratories have research that could significantly impact the design of future wind turbine blades.

Using high-performance computing to perform complex calculations, engineers have overcome previous design constraints, allowing them to begin exploring ways to design re-engineered wind blades that are low-noise and are more prolific power-producers.

According to GE, its scope of work focused on advancing wind turbine blade noise prediction methods. Aerodynamic blade noise is the dominant noise source on modern, utility-scale wind turbines and represents a key constraint in wind turbine design. Efforts to reduce blade noise can help reduce the cost of wind energy and increase power output.

GE predicts that a 1-decibel quieter rotor design would result in a 2% increase in annual energy yield per turbine. With approximately 240 GW of new wind installations forecast globally over the next five years, a 2% increase would create more than 5 GW of additional wind power capacity.

“There’s no question; aerodynamic noise is a key constraint in wind turbine blade design today,” explains Mark Jonkhof, wind technology platform leader at GE Global Research. “By using high-performance computing to advance current engineering models that are used to predict blade noise, we can build quieter rotors with greater blade tip velocity that produce more power. This not only means lower energy costs for consumers, but also a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.”

To ensure that GE’s wind blades do not pose noise issues, airfoil level acoustic measurements are performed in wind tunnels, field measurements are done to validate acceptable noise levels and noise-reducing operating modes are implemented in the control system. Better modeling will help maintain the current low noise levels while boosting output.

GE’s testing involved Sandia’s Red Mesa supercomputer’s running a high-fidelity Large Eddy Simulation (LES) code, developed at Stanford University, to predict the detailed fluid dynamic phenomena and resulting wind blade noise.

For a period of three months, this LES simulation of the turbulent air flow past a wind blade section was continuously performed on the Red Mesa HPC. The resulting flow-field predictions yielded valuable insights that were used to assess current engineering design models, the assumptions they make that most impact noise predictions, and the accuracy and reliability of model choices.

“We found that high fidelity models can play a key role in accurately predicting trailing edge noise,” adds Jonkhof. “We believe that the results achieved from our simulations would, at the very least, lay the groundwork for improved noise design models.”

Fine Gael TD for Mayo, Michelle Mulherin, this week called for a mandatory contribution by wind farms to the economic, environmental, or social impact on local communities where power lines and wind turbines are being erected. This contribution or benefit in kind, would be in addition to the rent paid by wind farms to landowners and the rates paid to local authorities.

The Ballina based Deputy said: “As it currently stands, the requirement of a wind farm developer to contribute to a community fund is ad hoc and voluntary and any request by a local authority is not enforceable. We need a national policy through our planning code to inform local authorities. While some developers make contributions, there is no uniformity nationally as to what communities with wind farms might receive and it often just involves a private deal between the wind farm developer and members of the community.

There also needs to be transparency as to how the funds are administered, and who can access it from within a community and under what criteria.” She went on to say, “I’m also proposing that the Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan, in conjunction with the Minister for Communications, Pat Rabbitte, examine the possibility of providing cheaper electricity to households within the vicinity of transmission lines and even wind farms. In the case of a wind farm, a community could potentially take a stake in a wind farm and receive an annual income from a particular wind turbine, for example, so that the more electricity generated from a wind farm, the more income the community receives for projects in their area. Such guidelines should of course be developed in consultation with all stakeholders including wind farm and grid developers.

It is imperative that we develop these guidelines as a matter of priority. There is huge potential to develop the renewable energy sector in this country, which will not only be of huge benefit to our green economy and provide energy security for the country, but it will drive job creation and encourage investment.” She concluded by saying: “It is generally accepted that the biggest challenge to development in this area is community acceptance. Certain communities carry more of the burden of this infrastructure and this should be recognised by formal national planning guidelines on community gain.”

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