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Volume down, production up: Making wind work harder

Volume down, production up: Making wind work harder
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Harnessing the power of the wind is not pollution-free. Noise is one of the main complaints for onshore turbines. At this windfarm near the Spanish city of Burgos technicians are installing a new device which aims to turn down the volume. It could have a major impact on the wind energy market as more companies seek to build turbines onshore near to urban areas, where restrictions on noise are much stricter.

Also, wind turbine noise can come at a cost to efficiency, so developing new technology could mean producing more energy, whilst emitting less sound.

Fernando Garcia Ayerra, Windtrust Technical Coordinator explains how it works.

“The device is made up of a series of serrated teeth, and its specific design enables the impact of the wind on the trailing edge of the blade to be broken. This subsequently lowers the overall noise of the turbine. At the moment we are carrying out tests on a wind generator 78 metres high with a rotor diameter of 90 metres.”

The device which would attach to the blades has been developed by the European project Windtrust.

Taking it even further they will optimise the use of carbon fibre to make the blades. This should increase their durability and reduce their weight, which in turn would extend the overall life of the turbine. Doing this would also keep maintenance costs down.

At this factory near Madrid, researchers putting a “Wind converter” to the test. It’s the device that transforms the mechanical energy of the blades into electricity. Technicians want to maximise the balance between energy production and machine life.

“The machine you see here is located inside the turbine; there can be up to four of them inside each wind turbine,” explains Andres Agudo Araque from Gamesa Electric. “They enable the rotational energy of the wind to be converted into electricity. Within Windtrust we built a new generation of semiconductors to reduce the number of active elements and consequently the number of breakdowns. In addition we reduce the repair times by 70% and can also work in environments of high pollution and high humidity, as on the offshore sites. We incorporate an algorithm to foresee and anticipate a problem before a breakdown occurs.”

Noise is not the only problem that engineers have to consider with wind power: the interruption of supply due to weather conditions, the difficulties of storing energy, the impact on the environment, the high costs of energy production and the maintenance of the equipment all pose problems.

“In Europe we want to achieve clean, reliable energy at the lowest possible cost,” Mauro Villanueva, Windtrust Project Coordinator explains. “For this reason, the concept that we must continue working on is reliability. The reliability of wind turbines and of their most important components. So all Windtrust partners have completely reviewed the design of certain components. We can therefore say that we have before us a new generation of components that will not only improve the reliability of onshore machines but also that of offshore machines.”

Finding ways of refining wind energy is taking on more importance as European countries aim to reduce CO2 emissions. By making reducing noise and increasing energy production, researchers hope to make the transition more harmonious.