Wind energy has been rising in the ranks when it comes to renewable energy sources. In the United States alone, wind energy produces enough electricity to power roughly 18 million homes—with about 48,000 utility-scale wind turbines operating nationally. While wind energy shows promising potential, there is still room for scientists to tweak this technology in order to yield higher efficiency levels.
The latest prototype of a new wind turbine system was developed with that goal in mind. The new system from researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) is set to yield 8.5 percent more electricity than current wind turbines.
Powering the Future
While wind turbines are a promising source of alternative energy, they tend to produce a decent amount of surplus energy that has not been able to be harvested and utilized. The newly developed turbine prototype examines that issue and can now store surplus energy for later use as electricity.
When comparing the new prototype and current generation wind turbines, the new turbines have the potential to yield up to an extra 16,400 kwh of electricity per month—coming in around 18 times the amount of energy a single United States household uses in a month.
In addition to capturing this large amount of surplus energy, the new turbines have the potential to help cut costs for the wind energy sector and produce usable energy at a more consistent rate.
More Efficient Wind Turbines
The problem with current turbines systems lies in “mechanical spillage.” This spillage happens when turbines do not utilize their full capacity due to the incapability to adjust to wind speeds and capture the maximum amount of potential energy.
This from UNL:
[The new] system helps resolve this problem by converting and directing the spillage to an air compression tank, where the excess energy remains until wind speeds dip enough to pull the turbine back beneath its optimal capacity. At that point, the tank kicks in to regenerate the electricity.
“The biggest problem for wind energy is that it’s not a reliable energy resource,” said Jie Cheng, doctoral student in electrical engineer and developer of the new prototype. “Even if there’s not enough wind to generate electricity, the community still needs it. If we can (scale up) this system, it could improve reliability by producing electricity even when there’s no wind.”[Image: Daily Times Gazette]
PS: Check out what other researchers are doing to create the next generation of wind turbines for more efficient and consistent energy production.