Wind power is a flourishing technology that’s currently drawing down a sizable share of funding in the global energy market. The uptake of wind power generation system accounts for over 10% of European energy consumption and over 4% of global consumption.
But much of the investments in wind energy systems for electric power generation have focused on addressing three key challenges of wind energy. For starters, the science of wind energy is mostly about size: the bigger the better. Wind energy installations need to be placed in areas with sufficient winds. However, the presence of strong winds isn’t more critical than the size of the rotor blades; the larger the rotors and blades, the more efficient the power generation, especially in areas with low winds.
The latest generation of wind energy systems come with tower heights and rotor sizes that dwarf those of the older generations. Since they trap winds with much wider coverage, they have much larger potential production capacities.
The second challenge has been about reaching for winds higher up in the atmosphere. Since you can trap stronger winds the higher you go up in the atmosphere, the new generation of wind energy systems run on stronger winds in any location, given their relative height advantage.
In fact, the evolution of electricity generation from wind has mainly been about the creation of larger blades and taller turbines. Endgame has been to create tall, slender structures that are highly resistant to bends and warps.
And that brings us to the third key challenge currently faced in the industry: the use of materials and designs that allow for higher reach without the eddies of bends and warps.
The following is an overview of three models of the new generation of wind power generation systems that are designed to overcome these three major challenges:
New wind energy generation system by VTT
The VTT Research Center of Technology (VTT), Finland have been at the forefront of the push for more efficient wind power technology in Finland. The research center has released a new model of wind energy technology that generates power with relatively greater efficiency even in areas with low winds. With this technology, wind farms can be freely installed in any location. This is bound to make wind energy more feasible and competitive.
However, the power plants for the new wind energy system are costlier, but their potential electricity generation capacity is five times bigger than those of the traditional systems. If installed within the budget cost of running regular power grids, the new technology can provide a potential capacity to generate up to 86 TWh, which is the energy consumption rate in Finland. Whereas the older wind energy systems’ potential does not exceed 16TWh within the said budget cost.
Bladeless Wind Turbines by Vortex Bladeless
This is a new technology for wind power used for wind electricity generation which runs without blades. The technology operates by harnessing the undulating vortices generated when wind flows around an obstacle. It comprises a thin, cone-shaped turbine made with carbon fiber and fiberglass, with the motor placed underneath instead of on top like regular turbines to enhance sturdiness, and with a ring of magnets at the cone’s base to boost rotation. The cone is designed to make the incoming winds spin synchronously around its edges.
Given its bladeless form factor, it’s relatively cheaper to manufacture than the traditional turbines. And since there’re no parts coming into friction with each other, the new system has a very low maintenance cost.
GW168-8MW Turbine by Goldwind
Chinese wind power industry heavyweight Goldwind has announced the release of prototypes of four different models of wind power systems, among them an 8MW turbine — the most powerful yet in China, and a model with a rotor spanning 184-meter in diameter. There’s also the GW168-6.45MW turbine designed to operate with winds speed across both ends of the scale, from very low wind speeds to typhoons.
The company is poised to release the first prototype of the models by the second half of 2019.
The GW184-6.45MW is targeted to the market north of China’s Yangtze River, where average the wind speeds is 7.5m/s, and the GW168-6.45MW designed to generate electricity from wind power in the East China Sea off the coast of Zhejiang as well as in the South China Sea off the coast of Guangdong.
The new breed of wind power generation system offers a slew of advantages over the older models, from lower overall costs to greater electricity generation potentials and freedom from the restraints of land use regulations. While these new innovations aren’t expected to revolutionize the alternative energy industries, they no doubt represent exciting prospects for a greener future.