Harvesting the wind with the largest turbines ever made

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When the engineer Lukasz Cejrowski finally saw the world’s largest wind turbine blades installed on a prototype of a tower in 2016, stood up and took a selfie. Of course.

“It was incredible,” he says, recalling the moment with a laugh. “The feeling of happiness – ‘Yes, it works, is mounted.'”

Those blades, made by the firm of Danish LM Wind Power, have been a record of 88.4 m (290ft) long largest wingspan of an Airbus A380, or nearly the length of two olympic-sized swimming pools. The swept area of a mammoth rotor blades should cover the Colosseum.

But things move quickly in the wind turbine industry.

In a few years, the blades may be overcome by the company for the next project – 107m-blades.

LM Wind Power is owned by global engineering firm General Electric (GE), which announced in March that it hopes to develop a giant 12MW (megawatts) wind turbine by 2020.

LM Wind Power

A single turbine of this size, in feet 260 m of height, could produce enough electricity to power 16,000 households.

The world’s current largest wind turbine is a third less powerful than that, the generation of 8MW. Several companies, including Siemens, are working on turbines all over the 10MW mark.

When it comes to wind turbines, apparently, size matters.

This is because more large turbines to capture more wind energy and do so at higher altitudes, where the production of wind energy is more consistent.

But the design and the production of blades of this size is a remarkable work of engineering.

Mr Cejrowski said that the company could, in theory, use the metal, but the blades would be extremely expensive and heavy. Instead, it is a mix of carbon fibre and fibre glass.

LM Wind Power

First, make a glass fiber, and polyester shell for each blade in two halves. Then the spar cap is added. Here is a length of reinforcing material that runs along the inside of each of these halves.

For this reason, Mr. Cejrowski team is using a glass-carbon composite, fabric, infused with a special resin that hardens.

These ultra-large blades are extensively tested. Prototype are bent, stretched, tossed in the wind tunnel and, during the “fatigue tests”, flexed back and forth rapidly, millions of times to simulate a lifetime of use. They are also tested against lightning strike.

The world’s largest wind turbines are generally installed offshore rather than on land. In this way, do not avoid to be giant eyesores in the middle of us and are able to take advantage of the strong winds in the sea.

Steffen Stamp

On the 17th of March, more than a third of the domestic electricity generation in great Britain has been reached with wind energy, the National network reported. This is a record.

The potential of offshore wind energy has prompted some to draw up the plans for the future wind farms on a huge scale, in waters many miles from land. Offshore wind cheaper than new nuclear

US researchers recently demonstrated that a huge amount of energy that is not exploited could be exploited with the construction of a gigantic wind farm in the North Atlantic.

Separately, a Dutch company TenneT has developed a concept for a large wind farm which could be constructed at Dogger Bank, a shallow water area in the North Sea.

EPA

It should include a man-made island where substations may be located, and with many hundreds of turbines, power for countries, including the UNITED kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Sweden.

In total, you could have a capacity of 30GW (gigawatts), the company says.

To put that in context, the average daily electricity demand in the UK is 36GW.

Henrik Stiesdal, a former chief engineer at Siemens wind power, who now works at the Danish Technical University, says there are many advantages for the construction of supersized offshore farms like this – even cosmetic benefits.

“If you are more than 40 km (25 miles), the curvature of the earth means that the turbines will be below the horizon,” he says.

Mr. Stiesdal says various organisations, including the institute and the University of Oxford, working on ways to make offshore wind turbine foundation that is more convenient.

LM Wind Power

One idea is to develop floating platforms that would be more convenient for the production in large quantities in factories.

But if the cost of foundations does not go down, then it may be convenient to install a larger number of small turbines rather than a smaller number of large.

“The hunting of the big machines will continue only as long as the infrastructure costs are high,” he explains.

For this reason, wind turbines are unlikely to exceed the 12MW models, he believes.

A fault in the construction of wind farms offshore with many small turbines, however, is that there are many more individual bits of equipment that need to be serviced and maintained at sea, where conditions can often be inhospitable, to say the least.

For the more immediate future, expect to see the offshore wind farms continue to multiply, especially in Europe, says Joel Meggelaars to the association of the Wind industry in Europe.

“GE is definitely the biggest announcement we’ve seen so far,” he says, referring to the project of 12MW turbine.More Technology of Business

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Wind supplied over 11% of europe’s electricity in the first half of 2017, the Wind Europe says.

And Mr. Meggelaars expect the percentage to grow as more wind farms are installed.

“In 2019, we expect to see another record for offshore wind has been installed, all of 4GW – again, most of that is in the UNITED kingdom and Germany.”

The main obstacle for potential projects such as Dogger Bank, he adds, is that governments have to cooperate with one another. It may be decades before a wind park as that gets going.

In the meantime, the initial advantage of ever larger turbines is the drop in the cost of wind energy, says Mr. Meggelaars.

“It’s absolutely great news that these large turbines are on the horizon,” he explained. “You will make renewables even cheaper.”Follow the Technology and Business editor, Matthew Wall, on Twitter and Facebook
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