Wind turbines are manufactured in a wide range of vertical and horizontal axis types. The smallest turbines are used for applications such as battery charging for auxiliary power for boats or caravans or to power traffic warning signs. Slightly larger turbines can be used for making contributions to a domestic power supply while selling unused power back to the utility supplier via the electrical grid. Arrays of large turbines, known as wind farms, are becoming an increasingly important source of intermittent renewable energy and are used by many countries as part of a strategy to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels.
Wind power was probably used in Persia (present-day Iran) about 500–900 AD. The windwheel of Hero of Alexandria marks one of the first recorded instances of wind powering a machine in history. However, the first known practical wind power plants were built in Sistan, an Eastern province of Iran, from the 7th century. These "Panemone" were vertical axle windmills, which had long vertical drive shafts with rectangular blades. Made of six to twelve sails covered in reed matting or cloth material, these windmills were used to grind grain or draw up water, and were used in the gristmilling and sugarcane industries.
Wind power first appeared in Europe during the Middle Ages. The first historical records of their use in England date to the 11th or 12th centuries and there are reports of German crusaders taking their windmill-making skills to Syria around 1190. By the 14th century, Dutch windmills were in use to drain areas of the Rhine delta. Advanced wind turbines were described by Croatian inventor Fausto Veranzio. In his book Machinae Novae (1595) he described vertical axis wind turbines with curved or V-shaped blades.
The first electricity-generating wind turbine was a battery charging machine installed in July 1887 by Scottish academic James Blyth to light his holiday home in Marykirk, Scotland. Some months later American inventor Charles F. Brush was able to build the first automatically operated wind turbine after consulting local University professors and colleagues Jacob S. Gibbs and Brinsley Coleberd and successfully getting the blueprints peer-reviewed for electricity production in Cleveland, Ohio. Although Blyth's turbine was considered uneconomical in the United Kingdom electricity generation by wind turbines was more cost effective in countries with widely scattered populations.
In Denmark by 1900, there were about 2500 windmills for mechanical loads such as pumps and mills, producing an estimated combined peak power of about 30 MW. The largest machines were on 24-meter (79 ft) towers with four-bladed 23-meter (75 ft) diameter rotors. By 1908 there were 72 wind-driven electric generators operating in the United States from 5 kW to 25 kW. Around the time of World War I, American windmill makers were producing 100,000 farm windmills each year, mostly for water-pumping.
By the 1930s, wind generators for electricity were common on farms, mostly in the United States where distribution systems had not yet been installed. In this period, high-tensile steel was cheap, and the generators were placed atop prefabricated open steel lattice towers.
A forerunner of modern horizontal-axis wind generators was in service at Yalta, USSR in 1931. This was a 100 kW generator on a 30-meter (98 ft) tower, connected to the local 6.3 kV distribution system. It was reported to have an annual capacity factor of 32 percent, not much different from current wind machines.
In the autumn of 1941, the first megawatt-class wind turbine was synchronized to a utility grid in Vermont. The Smith-Putnam wind turbine only ran for 1,100 hours before suffering a critical failure. The unit was not repaired, because of shortage of materials during the war.
Despite these diverse developments, developments in fossil fuel systems almost entirely eliminated any wind turbine systems larger than supermicro size. In the early 1970s, however, anti-nuclear protests in Denmark spurred artisan mechanics to develop microturbines of 22 kW. Organizing owners into associations and co-operatives lead to the lobbying of the government and utilities and provided incentives for larger turbines throughout the 1980s and later. Local activists in Germany, nascent turbine manufacturers in Spain, and large investors in the United States in the early 1990s then lobbied for policies that stimulated the industry in those countries. Later companies formed in India and China. As of 2012, Danish company Vestas is the world's biggest wind-turbine manufacturer.
A quantitative measure of wind energy available at any location is called the Wind Power Density (WPD). It is a calculation of the mean annual power available per square meter of swept area of a turbine, and is tabulated for different heights above ground. Calculation of wind power density includes the effect of wind velocity and air density. Color-coded maps are prepared for a particular area described, for example, as "Mean Annual Power Density at 50 Metres". In the United States, the results of the above calculation are included in an index developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and referred to as "NREL CLASS". The larger the WPD, the higher it is rated by class. Classes range from Class 1 (200 watts per square meter or less at 50 m altitude) to Class 7 (800 to 2000 watts per square m). Commercial wind farms generally are sited in Class 3 or higher areas, although isolated points in an otherwise Class 1 area may be practical to exploit.
Wind turbines are classified by the wind speed they are designed for, from class I to class IV, with A or B referring to the turbulence.
|Class||Avg Wind Speed (m/s)||Turbulence|
Conservation of mass requires that the amount of air entering and exiting a turbine must be equal. Accordingly, Betz's law gives the maximal achievable extraction of wind power by a wind turbine as 16/27 (59.3%) of the total kinetic energy of the air flowing through the turbine.
The maximum theoretical power output of a wind machine is thus 16/27 times the kinetic energy of the air passing through the effective disk area of the machine. If the effective area of the disk is A, and the wind velocity v, the maximum theoretical power output P is:
where ρ is the air density.
As wind is free (no fuel cost), wind-to-rotor efficiency (including rotor blade friction and drag) is one of many aspects impacting the final price of wind power. Further inefficiencies, such as gearbox losses, generator and converter losses, reduce the power delivered by a wind turbine. To protect components from undue wear, extracted power is held constant above the rated operating speed as theoretical power increases at the cube of wind speed, further reducing theoretical efficiency. In 2001, commercial utility-connected turbines deliver 75% to 80% of the Betz limit of power extractable from the wind, at rated operating speed.
Efficiency can decrease slightly over time due to wear. Analysis of 3128 wind turbines older than 10 years in Denmark showed that half of the turbines had no decrease, while the other half saw a production decrease of 1.2% per year. Vertical turbine designs have much lower efficiency than standard horizontal designs.
Wind turbines can rotate about either a horizontal or a vertical axis, the former being both older and more common. They can also include blades (transparent or not) or be bladeless. Vertical designs produce less power and are less common.
Horizontal-axis wind turbines (HAWT) have the main rotor shaft and electrical generator at the top of a tower, and must be pointed into the wind. Small turbines are pointed by a simple wind vane, while large turbines generally use a wind sensor coupled with a servomotor. Most have a gearbox, which turns the slow rotation of the blades into a quicker rotation that is more suitable to drive an electrical generator.
Any solid object produces a wake behind it, leading to fatigue failures, so the turbine is usually positioned upwind of its supporting tower. Downwind machines have been built, because they don't need an additional mechanism for keeping them in line with the wind. In high winds, the blades can also be allowed to bend which reduces their swept area and thus their wind resistance. In upwind designs, turbine blades must be made stiff to prevent the blades from being pushed into the tower by high winds. Additionally, the blades are placed a considerable distance in front of the tower and are sometimes tilted forward into the wind a small amount.
Turbines used in wind farms for commercial production of electric power are usually three-bladed. These have low torque ripple, which contributes to good reliability. The blades are usually colored white for daytime visibility by aircraft and range in length from 20 to 80 meters (66 to 262 ft). The size and height of turbines increase year by year. Offshore wind turbines are built up to 8MW today and have a blade length up to 80m. Usual tubular steel towers of multi megawatt turbines have a height of 70 m to 120 m and in extremes up to 160 m.
The blades rotate at 10 to 22 revolutions per minute. At 22 rotations per minute the tip speed exceeds 90 meters per second (300 ft/s). Higher tip speeds means more noise and blade erosion. A gear box is commonly used for stepping up the speed of the generator, although designs may also use direct drive of an annular generator. Some models operate at constant speed, but more energy can be collected by variable-speed turbines which use a solid-state power converter to interface to the transmission system. All turbines are equipped with protective features to avoid damage at high wind speeds, by feathering the blades into the wind which ceases their rotation, supplemented by brakes.
Vertical-axis wind turbines (or VAWTs) have the main rotor shaft arranged vertically. One advantage of this arrangement is that the turbine does not need to be pointed into the wind to be effective, which is an advantage on a site where the wind direction is highly variable. It is also an advantage when the turbine is integrated into a building because it is inherently less steerable. Also, the generator and gearbox can be placed near the ground, using a direct drive from the rotor assembly to the ground-based gearbox, improving accessibility for maintenance. However, these designs produce much less energy averaged over time, which is a major drawback.
The key disadvantages include the relatively low rotational speed with the consequential higher torque and hence higher cost of the drive train, the inherently lower power coefficient, the 360-degree rotation of the aerofoil within the wind flow during each cycle and hence the highly dynamic loading on the blade, the pulsating torque generated by some rotor designs on the drive train, and the difficulty of modelling the wind flow accurately and hence the challenges of analysing and designing the rotor prior to fabricating a prototype.
When a turbine is mounted on a rooftop the building generally redirects wind over the roof and this can double the wind speed at the turbine. If the height of a rooftop mounted turbine tower is approximately 50% of the building height it is near the optimum for maximum wind energy and minimum wind turbulence. Wind speeds within the built environment are generally much lower than at exposed rural sites, noise may be a concern and an existing structure may not adequately resist the additional stress.
Subtypes of the vertical axis design include:
Another type of vertical axis is the Parallel turbine, which is similar to the crossflow fan or centrifugal fan. It uses the ground effect. Vertical axis turbines of this type have been tried for many years: a unit producing 10 kW was built by Israeli wind pioneer Bruce Brill in the 1980s.
Floating wind turbines
In July 2017 work installing an experimental floating wind farm known as Hywind at Peterhead began. The turbines float on a sealed vase-like tube 78 metres deep which are filled with iron ore to weight the structures and keep them upright in the water. The wind farm is expected to supply power to 20,000 homes. Manufactured by Statoil, the floating turbines can be located in water up to a kilometre deep.
Wind turbines are designed, using a range of computer modelling techniques, to exploit the wind energy that exists at a location. For example, Aerodynamic modeling is used to determine the optimum tower height, control systems, number of blades and blade shape.
Wind turbines convert wind energy to electricity for distribution. Conventional horizontal axis turbines can be divided into three components:
A 1.5 MW wind turbine of a type frequently seen in the United States has a tower 80 meters (260 ft) high. The rotor assembly (blades and hub) weighs 22,000 kilograms (48,000 lb). The nacelle, which contains the generator component, weighs 52,000 kilograms (115,000 lb). The concrete base for the tower is constructed using 26,000 kilograms (58,000 lb) of reinforcing steel and contains 190 cubic meters (250 cu yd) of concrete. The base is 15 meters (50 ft) in diameter and 2.4 meters (8 ft) thick near the center.
An E-66 wind turbine in the Windpark Holtriem, Germany, has an observation deck for visitors. Another turbine of the same type with an observation deck is located in Swaffham, England. Airborne wind turbine designs have been proposed and developed for many years but have yet to produce significant amounts of energy. In principle, wind turbines may also be used in conjunction with a large vertical solar updraft tower to extract the energy due to air heated by the sun.
A ram air turbine (RAT) is a special kind of small turbine that is fitted to some aircraft. When deployed, the RAT is spun by the airstream going past the aircraft and can provide power for the most essential systems if there is a loss of all on-board electrical power, as in the case of the "Gimli Glider".
The two-bladed SCD 6MW offshore turbine designed by aerodyn Energiesysteme and built by MingYang Wind Power has a helideck for helicopters on top of its nacelle. The prototype was erected in 2014 in Rudong, China.
Due to data transmission problems, structural health monitoring of wind turbines is usually performed using several accelerometers and strain gages attached to the nacelle to monitor the gearbox and equipments. Currently, digital image correlation and stereophotogrammetry are used to measure dynamics of wind turbine blades. These methods usually measure displacement and strain to identify location of defects. Dynamic characteristics of non-rotating wind turbines have been measured using digital image correlation and photogrammetry. Three dimensional point tracking has also been used to measure rotating dynamics of wind turbines.
Materials that are typically used for the rotor blades in wind turbines are composites, as they tend to have a high stiffness, high strength, high fatigue resistance, and low weight. Typical resins used for these composites include polyester and epoxy, while glass and carbon fibers have been used for the reinforcing material. Construction may use manual layup techniques or composite resin injection molding. As the price of glass fibers is only about one tenth the price of carbon fiber, glass fiber is still dominant.
As competition in the wind market increases, companies are seeking ways to draw greater efficiency from their designs. One of the predominant ways wind turbines have gained performance is by increasing rotor diameters, and thus blade length. Retrofitting current turbines with larger blades mitigates the need and risks associated with a system-level redesign. By incorporating carbon fiber into parts of existing blade systems, manufacturers may increase the length of the blades without increasing their overall weight. For instance, the spar cap, a structural element of a turbine blade, commonly experiences high tensile loading, making it an ideal candidate to utilize the enhanced tensile properties of carbon fiber in comparison to glass fiber. Higher stiffness and lower density translates to thinner, lighter blades offering equivalent performance. In a 10-MW turbine—which will become more common in offshore systems by 2021—blade lengths may reach over 100 m and weigh up to 50 metric tons when fabricated out of glass fiber. A switch to carbon fiber in the structural spar of the blade yields weight savings of 20 to 30 percent, or approximately 15 metric tons. The compressive properties of carbon fiber do not differ significantly from those of glass fiber. It is therefore economical to replace glass fiber components under compression with carbon fiber components.
While the material cost is significantly higher for all-glass fiber blades than for hybrid glass/carbon fiber blades, there is a potential for tremendous savings in manufacturing costs when labor price is considered. Utilizing carbon fiber enables for simpler designs that use less raw material. The chief manufacturing process in blade fabrication is the layering of plies. By reducing the number of layers of plies, as is enabled by thinner blade design, the cost of labor may be decreased, and in some cases, equate to the cost of labor for glass fiber blades.
Materials for wind turbine parts other than the rotor blades (including the rotor hub, gearbox, frame, and tower) are largely composed of steel. Modern turbines uses a couple of tonnes of copper for generators, cables and such. Smaller wind turbines have begun incorporating more aluminum based alloys into these components in an effort to make the turbines more lightweight and efficient, and may continue to be used increasingly if fatigue and strength properties can be improved. Prestressed concrete has been increasingly used for the material of the tower, but still, requires much reinforcing steel to meet the strength requirement of the turbine. Additionally, step-up gearboxes are being increasingly replaced with variable speed generators, increasing the demand for magnetic materials in wind turbines., In particular, this would require an increased supply of the rare earth metal neodymium. Reliance on rare earth minerals for components has risked expense and price volatility as China has been main producer of rare earth minerals (96% in 2009) and had been reducing its export quotas of these materials. In recent years, however, other producers have increased production of rare earth minerals and China has removed its reduced export quota on rare earths leading to an increased supply and decreased cost of rare earth minerals, increasing the viability of the implementation of variable speed generators in wind turbines on a large scale.
A few localities have exploited the attention-getting nature of wind turbines by placing them on public display, either with visitor centers around their bases, or with viewing areas farther away. The wind turbines are generally of conventional horizontal-axis, three-bladed design, and generate power to feed electrical grids, but they also serve the unconventional roles of technology demonstration, public relations, and education.
Small wind turbines may be used for a variety of applications including on- or off-grid residences, telecom towers, offshore platforms, rural schools and clinics, remote monitoring and other purposes that require energy where there is no electric grid, or where the grid is unstable. Small wind turbines may be as small as a fifty-watt generator for boat or caravan use. Hybrid solar and wind powered units are increasingly being used for traffic signage, particularly in rural locations, as they avoid the need to lay long cables from the nearest mains connection point. The U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) defines small wind turbines as those smaller than or equal to 100 kilowatts. Small units often have direct drive generators, direct current output, aeroelastic blades, lifetime bearings and use a vane to point into the wind.
Larger, more costly turbines generally have geared power trains, alternating current output, flaps and are actively pointed into the wind. Direct drive generators and aeroelastic blades for large wind turbines are being researched.
On most horizontal windturbine farms, a spacing of about 6–10 times the rotor diameter is often upheld. However, for large wind farms distances of about 15 rotor diameters should be more economically optimal, taking into account typical wind turbine and land costs. This conclusion has been reached by research conducted by Charles Meneveau of the Johns Hopkins University, and Johan Meyers of Leuven University in Belgium, based on computer simulations that take into account the detailed interactions among wind turbines (wakes) as well as with the entire turbulent atmospheric boundary layer. Moreover, recent research by John Dabiri of Caltech suggests that vertical wind turbines may be placed much more closely together so long as an alternating pattern of rotation is created allowing blades of neighbouring turbines to move in the same direction as they approach one another.
Modern turbines usually have a small onboard crane for hoisting maintenance tools and minor components. However, large heavy components like generator, gearbox, blades and so on are rarely replaced and a heavy lift external crane is needed in those cases. If the turbine has a difficult access road, a containerized crane can be lifted up by the internal crane to provide heavier lifting.
Installation of new wind turbines can be controversial. An alternative is repowering, where existing wind turbines are replaced with bigger, more powerful ones, sometimes in smaller numbers while keeping or increasing capacity.
Wind turbines are generally inexpensive. They will cost between two and six cents per kilowatt hour, which is one of the lowest-priced renewable energy sources in today's world. And as technology needed for wind turbines continues to improve, the prices will decrease as well. In addition, there is no competitive market for wind energy, as it does not cost money to get ahold of wind. The main cost of wind turbines are the installation process. The average cost is between $48,000 and $65,000 to install. However, the energy harvested from the turbine will offset the installation cost, as well as provide virtually free energy for years after.
Wind turbines provide a clean energy source, emitting no greenhouse gases and no waste product. Over 1,500 tons of carbon dioxide per year can be eliminated by using a one megawatt turbine instead of one megawatt of energy from a fossil fuel. Being environmentally friendly and green is a large advantage of wind turbines.
Wind turbines are also quite efficient. Wind farms can generate between 17 and 39 times as much power as they consume, and in the United States alone, wind turbines have produced about 16 billion kilowatt-hours of energy per year.
Wind turbines can be very large, reaching over 400 feet tall and with blades 50 yards long, and people have often complained about their visual impact.
Environmental impact of wind power includes effect on wildlife. Thousands of birds, including rare species, have been killed by the blades of wind turbines, though wind turbines contribute relatively insignificantly to anthropogenic avian mortality. For every bird killed by a wind turbine in the US, nearly 500,000 are killed by each of feral cats and buildings.. In comparison, conventional coal fired generators contribute significantly more to bird mortality, by incineration when caught in updrafts of smoke stacks and by poisoning with emissions byproducts (including particulates and heavy metals downwind of flue gases). Further, marine life is affected by water intakes of steam turbine cooling towers (heat exchangers) for nuclear and fossil fuel generators, by coal dust deposits in marine ecosystems (e.g. damaging Australia's Great Barrier Reef) and by water acidification from combustion monoxides.
Energy harnessed by wind turbines is intermittent, and is not a "dispatchable" source of power; it's availability is based on whether the wind is blowing, not whether electricity is needed. Turbines can be placed on ridges or bluffs to maximize the access of wind they have, but this also limits the locations where they can be placed. In this way, wind energy is not a particularly reliable source of energy. However, it can form part of the energy mix, which also includes power from other sources. Notably, the relative available output from wind and solar sources is often inversely proportional (balancing). Technology is also being developed to store excess energy, which can then make up for any deficits in supplies.
will test how the 2.3-megawatt turbine holds up in 220-meter-deep water.
world's first full-scale floating wind turbine