To take advantage of the strong winds that blow over the ocean, this gearless turbine uses a giant ring of magnets and 176-foot blades
By Rena Marie PacellaPosted 03.26.2010 at 10:44 am 40 Comments
There’s enough wind energy along our coastlines to power the country four times over, and the race is on to build the best offshore turbines to capture it. Manufacturers worldwide are experimenting with two techniques: ever-longer blades to harness more gusts, and simplified drivetrains (including new generators) that slash the need for costly repairs at sea. GE’s upcoming machine, slated to go online in 2012, will combine both into one package.
President Obama made it clear in his State of the Union Address last week that he fears the American economy is on the brink of missing out on a green tech boom that could propel us out of our current financial mess and into the coming century, and it appears his concern is well-placed. China leapfrogged Denmark, Germany, Spain and the U.S. to become the world's largest maker of wind turbines last year, and 2010 is shaping up to be another banner year.
Clouds form in the wake of the front row of wind turbines at the Horns Rev offshore wind farm near Denmark.
Clouds stream in the wake of wind turbines arrayed at the Horns Rev offshore wind farm in this stunning photo. But David MacKay, a physicist at the University of Cambridge in the UK, sees the image as illustrating the common problem of back-row wind turbines losing power relative to the front row.
Offshore wind power may soon cross national boundaries more easily than ever, based on news from the Copenhagen climate summit. Nine European nations announced plans for a "supergrid" in the North Sea that would allow them to connect Irish wind farms to continental Europe, or vice versa.
Wind turbines can be a radar operator's worst nightmare. By scrambling radar waves as blades spin faster or slower, large wind farms are sometimes capable of erasing airplanes from radar screens completely. But a Danish wind turbine company and a UK defense contractor may have found a solution by unveiling the first "stealth" wind-turbine blade last month.
Clean tech has seen a boost as the U.S. pours government funding into renewable energy, and China looks set to reap much of the benefits. Latest example: a Chinese wind-turbine company has just become the exclusive supplier for one of the largest wind-farm developments in the U.S.
Conventional wind turbines have an Achilles heel in the form of their clunky and expensive gearboxes. But that could change with GE's recent purchase of a company that has developed gearless turbine technology based on magnets.
Gearboxes act as the middleman to convert the slow rotations of wind turbine blades into the faster rotations needed for generators to create electricity. The downside of such gears comes from their high-maintenance requirements due to constant stress from wind turbulence.
Norwegian oil and gas giant StatoilHydro has inaugurated the world's first floating full-scale offshore wind turbine, paving the way for deep-water wind farms possessing the dual appeal of being out of sight as well as more efficient.
Texas company Baryonyx has plans to build a 28,000-square-foot data center in Stratford, Texas, which will be powered by 38,000 acres of offshore wind turbines, and another 8,000 acres of onshore turbines.
The wind may be restless, but the fastest air-powered ground vehicle is surprisingly steady as it sails over the dusty ground. Called Greenbird, it was developed by English engineer Richard Jenkins and the U.K.'s largest private green electricity supplier, Ecotricity.
On March 26 in a dry lakebed in California, the craft broke the world land-speed record for wind-powered vehicles by more than 10 miles an hour, setting the new record at 126.2 mph.