US lab develops gigantic turbine blades to capture vast wind energy

us-lab-develops-gigantic-turbine-blades-to-capture-vast-wind-energy

Todd Griffith shows a cross-section of a 50-meter blade, which is part of the pathway to the 200-meter exascale turbines being planned under a DOE ARPA-E-funded program. The huge turbines could be the basis for future 50-megawatt offshore wind energy installations.

Credit: Sandia National Lab

Sandia National Laboratories: A 50-MW turbine requires a rotor blade more than 650 feet (200 meters) long, two and a half times longer than existing wind blades

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US researchers at Sandia National Laboratories say they are working on a design for gigantic wind turbine blades that are longer than two football fields which could support 50-megawatt-- more than six times the power output of the largest current turbines --offshore wind farms in the future.

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Sandia researchers said most US wind turbines produce power in the 1- to 2-MW range, with blades about 165 feet (50 meters) long, while the largest commercially available turbine is rated at 8 MW with blades 262 feet (80 meters) long. A 50-MW turbine requires a rotor blade more than 650 feet (200 meters) long, two and a half times longer than any existing wind blade, the researchers stated.

Such exascale blades could be cost-effectively manufactured in segments, avoiding the unprecedented-scale equipment needed for transport and assembly of blades built as single units, said Todd Griffith lead blade designer on the project and technical lead for Sandia’s Offshore Wind Energy Program in a statement. The exascale turbines – called Segmented Ultralight Morphing Rotors (SUMR)-- would be positioned downwind, unlike conventional turbines that are configured with the rotor blades upwind of the tower.

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At dangerous wind speeds, the blades are stowed and aligned with the wind direction, reducing the risk of damage. At lower wind speeds, the blades spread out to maximize energy production. (Illustration courtesy of TrevorJohnston.com/Popular Science)

“At dangerous wind speeds, the blades are stowed and aligned with the wind direction, reducing the risk of damage. At lower wind speeds, the blades spread out more to maximize energy production.” Griffith said.

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The SUMR project is funded by the Department of Energy's (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy program and is led by the University of Virginia, Sandia and researchers from the University of Illinois, the University of Colorado, the Colorado School of Mines and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

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