The wind industry has seen some tremendous new innovations in wind technology during the past 40 years, whether in increased height, materials, or maintenance. Research has led to incremental growth, which has made wind energy directly competitive with conventional power sources, including fossil fuel electricity generation.
In short, here are some of the most notable breakthroughs in wind energy:
1. Smart wind turbines
Modern wind turbines are equipped with smart sensors that collect meteorological data. Together with the fiber optic cable system that connects turbines in a network, as well as the analytics software that decodes meteorological data, the smart sensors allow the turbines to trouble-shoot themselves and shut down in cases of extreme urgency.
Current innovations in wind technology, allow today’s wind turbines to sense freezing rain and automatically turn themselves off to prevent any damage. Later, the turbines can be restarted from a remote control panel without having the technician to be on site. This level of automation could save substantial amounts of money by both preventing damage to the turbines and reducing the costs of having employees trouble-shooting and verifying the turbines on site. Today, much of these operations can be performed remotely from a computer.
2. Gearless turbines
Just as efficiency drives innovation, so do reduced costs and improved production optimization techniques. Roughly 75% of the capital cost of a wind turbine goes into its structure – the blades, generator and tower components. The bigger the turbine gets, the larger the blades and rotor, thus the greater the electricity power generated. However, this increase in size puts considerable stress on the turbine’s gearbox, thus increasing noise and damage occurrence.
The bearings in a conventional wind turbine gearbox can add a lot of pressure due to wind turbulence, and even the slightest glitch in any part of the turbine can result in significant erosion, and possibly breakdown, of the turbine. This makes the gearbox the most high-maintenance part of a wind turbine.
One of the ways to save capital, operation and maintenance costs, as a result of new innovations in wind technology, is going gearless. This technological upgrade could decrease noise pollution and cut the maintenance and capital costs related to turbine damage. Gearless wind turbines have no gearbox and the rotor shaft is attached directly to the generator, which rotates at the same speed as the blades.
3. Wind market speedier adoption
According to research, wind turbine capacity has grown from 50-kilowatt units to as much as 6-MW units over the last 20 years, while the installation costs have dropped by 80%. Wind energy is the fastest growing energy technology in the world, with a 20% annual growth rate over the past five years, which makes it an increasingly dominant product in the energy marketplace.
The cost of wind generation is still higher than some conventional generation sources, however, these costs are going down, while conventional electricity generation costs are going up.
The Results of Recent Innovations in Wind Technology
There is ongoing improvement in wind power generation and new innovations in wind technology are being pursued at all levels of the industry. With the right tools, scientists can turn wind into sustainable fuel for many generations to come. Wind technology is moving forward and from offshore wind and residential turbines to community-owned turbines, these advancements in wind power hold great opportunities for the future of renewable energy.
photo via www.santamarta-florez.blogspot.ca