As wind turbine designs grow ever larger, engineers need new facilities to test their mettle, measuring their energy-generation capacity and making sure they can withstand the windiest conditions.
A new rig for extreme turbine rotor blade tests is set to open this summer in Germany, built to assess a new generation of mega turbines.
The biggest turbines in use today can generate about 2.5 megawatts with rotor blades that span about 200 feet. But new designs — including a 7-MW behemoth with a 260-foot rotor the turbine-maker Vestas unveiled last week — will need to be tested before they can be installed.
This entails mounting a rotor blade to a tiltable block and putting pressure on it, seeing how far it can bend. Along with validating a manufacturer's design specs, the tests will simulate the forces acting on rotor blades as they spin in the wind.
The Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy and Energy System Technology in Bremerhaven is opening a new test facility with a tiltable steel and concrete mounting block that weighs 100 metric tons. A blade will be mounted in the block with its tip pointed at a slight angle. Weight-bearing cables are attached, and as the mounting block rotates the blade up, it starts to bend — the new machine can bend a rotor blade "as a finger to a blade of grass," according to a news release from Fraunhofer.
The test bed will also simulate the cyclic forces acting on the blade as it turns, Fraunhofer says. A hydraulic cylinder will alternately push and pull on the blade, causing it to vibrate. Facilities like this will be crucial for testing new turbines like this monster below, designed to operate in the North Sea.
Vestas said the new design was the first ever built specifically for offshore wind farms, which are increasingly prevalent in Europe. The 443-foot-tall turbine's rotor blades will trace a circle bigger than the gigantic London Eye ferris wheel, according to Reuters.
Other facilities have to test the turbine drive shafts, making sure they can generate electricity efficiently. In the U.S., the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has a 2.5-megawatt dynamometer that can test powerful turbine drive trains. These test facilities simulate years of wear and tear in a couple months. NREL is already building a 5-MW dynamometer to test the next generation of turbines.
Fraunhofer's new test rig opens on June 9, 2011, but is designers are giving a preview this week at the Hannover Messe technology fair.
What I would find interesting is a full life-cycle cost analysis that compares these wind turbines to conventional sources of power generation like coal, gas, and nuclear.
And here come the pro-oil posters.
7M x 100 = 700M
If they can install a 2 thousands of these they will be equivalent with 15 nuclear plants. The only problem is the windless days.
for storage "gravity power" systems look pretty smart.
They are bags at the bottom that are pressurised for storage.
there is one under construction in Texas now.
It is rare that a new technology is cost competitive with an old technology. Look at LCD TVs. Remember when a 35 inch TV would set you back 7000 buck? Over time the cost comes down though.
You do understand that eventually we must stop using oil right?
The longer we wait, the harder it gets. We will never actually get anywhere if we dont start.
@Greg_NJ i wonder how much oil it takes to make one turbine. these aren't very green! nothing is, as everything we have is brought to us by oil! sad reality!
Wind power is most certainly a viable compliment to the planet's energy needs.
I don't believe that a turbine’s footprint being 443-foot-tall and having rotor blades that will trace a circle bigger than the gigantic London Eye ferris wheel are steps in the right direction with wind power generation technologies, unless the output per turbine was in the 1 GW range.
Would be nice to see more articles on the improvement of the "grid" or energy distribution.
With current U.S. energy consumption, we'd need over 500,000 of these huge windmills to cover 100% of the country. (That's not counting windless days and times of higher consumption). Wiki says we consume 29PWh per year, which is an average of 3.31TW.
These things look pretty expensive, surely they can do better than 7MW.
@kpop - Your argument is pointless. Sorry to hear that you're so in love with oil. Say it takes 100 barrels of oil (probably much, much less and obviously you don't know either) to manufacture one large turbine. So what? It no longer needs oil to produce electricity and in turn reduces the need for oil.
Goooong. Next contestant.
Just an fyi for those who don't or can't understand, there are places on the earth that the wind is always blowing. like the mid-west and out at sea like the north sea hence the giant wind turbins. I will grant you that wind power alone will not provide all the power. We need to up-grade our power distribution in the U.S., and start adding solar to the tops of all skyscrapers, airport terminals, and even new homes, also solar heaters to heat or preheat water and forced air units. Like everything else in the U.S. all of our stuff is really old and no one wants to spend the money to upgrade; the downside to capitalism.