Thursday, January 25, 2018

New Designs to Help Offshore Wind Turbines Handle Hurricanes

Offshore Wind Turbines

It is no secret most nations are looking towards more sustainable options to produce energy over the coming decades. While the term "renewable energy" conjures images of solar powered homes in the minds of most, wind power is another viable option, although offshore wind turbines have been met with their fair share of issues, especially in the United States.

According to an article from the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE), 13,000 megawatts of offshore wind have been deployed worldwide, yet the United States only has one commercial offshore wind farm in operation. There are many prongs to this issue, but the article focuses on tumultuous hurricane winds, which plague the Atlantic coast and Gulf of Mexico on a regular basis. While offshore wind turbines are engineered to lock and feather blades when wind speeds surpass 55 mph it is difficult for companies and the government to fund a wind farm with no guarantee it will withstand gusts of over 100-150 mph.

There are several options available to handle such wind speeds, but one of the more interesting advances comes from the rotor designed by Wetzel Engineering. The EERE goes on to say, "To optimize the project for hurricane resiliency and structural efficiency, the wind turbines use a downwind orientation—opposite from the upwind design used in virtually all utility-scale wind turbines today. Upwind turbines use a wind vane and a yaw drive to constantly turn the top of the turbine to face into the wind. A downwind turbine avoids these components and lets the wind blow the blades away from the tower. This allows the blades to be more flexible, and permits them to bend in high winds without the risk of them hitting the tower, thereby reducing the risk of structural damage during a hurricane."

Definitely some food for thought - hopefully all of the issues for wind turbines can be overcome, including economic feasibility and avian wildlife crashes.

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