(NaturalNews) Researchers from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have defied conventional wisdom in the area of wind technology, which purports that there is little room for technological improvement other than to increase the size and height of wind turbines.
(NaturalNews) The team's findings, which have been presented in the American Institute of Physics' Journal of Renewable & Sustainable Energy, explain that dense wind farm technology that focuses on the collective power of many wind turbines, rather than on the individual collection power of one wind turbine, significantly increases energy production efficiency.
The general approach to wind energy technology has been to focus on the energy generating capacity of individual, large-scale wind turbines placed in high-wind areas, with little-to-no emphasis placed on how these wind turbines work in tandem with one another to capture wind energy. In the Caltech team's model, however, emphasis was placed on the strategic, unique grouping of wind turbines together.
"What has been overlooked to date is that, not withstanding the tremendous advances in wind turbine technology, wind 'farms' are still rather inefficient when taken as a whole," said John Dabiri, professor of Engineering and Applied Science at Caltech, as well as director of the school's Center for Bioinspired Engineering.
"Because conventional, propeller-style wind turbines must be spaced far apart to avoid interfering with one another aerodynamically, much of the wind energy that enters a wind farm is never tapped. In effect, modern wind farms are the equivalent of 'sloppy eaters." To compensate, they're built taller and larger to access better winds."
The idea behind strategic wind turbine groupings is to capture more of the low-level wind that is otherwise lost in the conventional design model. By increasing this efficiency and altering the turbines to operate on vertical axes rather than on horizontal ones, there is no need to continue developing taller, larger wind turbines in higher-risk areas that end up increasing maintenance requirements and overall costs.
"The available wind energy at 30 feet is much less abundant than that found at the heights of modern wind turbines," added Dabiri. "But if near-ground wind can be harnessed more efficiently, there's no need to access the higher altitude winds ... our approach doesn't rely on high individual turbine efficiency as much as close turbine spacing."