ARPA-E Grant Aims to Reduce Cost of Wind Turbines

Research aimed at adapting circulation control technology to wind turbine blades will be conducted by PAX Streamline, a California company, in collaboration with the Georgia Institute of Technology. The two-year project, which will lead to construction of a demonstration pneumatic wind turbine, will be supported by a $3 million grant from the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy --the federal energy research and development organization also known as ARPA-E.

"Our goal will be to make generation of electricity from wind turbines less expensive by eliminating the need for the complex blade shapes and mechanical control systems used in current turbines," said Robert J. Englar, principal research engineer at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI). "Because these new blades would operate effectively at lower wind speeds, we could potentially open up new geographic areas to wind turbine use. Together, these advances could significantly expand the generation of electricity from wind power in the United States."

Circulation control techniques use compressed air blown from slots on the trailing edges of wings or hollow blades to change the aerodynamic properties of those wings or blades. In aircraft, circulation control wings improve lift, allowing aircraft to fly at much lower speeds--and take off and land in much shorter distances. In helicopter rotor blades, the technique--also known as the "circulation control rotor"--both simplifies the rotor and its control system and produces more lift.

The ARPA-E project will apply the technique to controlling the aerodynamic properties of wind turbine blades, which now must be made in complicated shapes and controlled by complex control mechanisms to extract optimal power from the wind.

"The speed at which these turbines would begin to operate will be much lower than with existing blades," Englar said. "Places that wind maps have previously indicated would not be suitable locations for wind turbines may now be useful. The blown technology should also allow safe operation at higher wind speeds and in wind gusts that would cause existing turbines to be shut down to prevent damage."

Because they would produce more aerodynamic force, torque, and power than comparable blades, these blown structures being developed by Georgia Tech and PAX could also allow a reduction in the size of the wind turbines.

"If you need a specific amount of wind force and torque generated by the wind turbine to generate electricity, we could get that force and torque from a smaller blade area because we'd have more powerful lifting surfaces," Englar explained.

A major question awaiting study is: How much energy will be required to produce the compressed air the blown blades need to operate? Preliminary studies done by Professor Lakshmi Sankar in Georgia Tech's School of Aerospace Engineering suggest that wind turbines with the blown blades could produce 30 to 40 percent more power than conventional turbines at the same wind speed--even when the energy required to produce the compressed air is subtracted from the total energy production.

The new turbine blades will be developed at GTRI's low-speed wind tunnel research facility located in Cobb County, north of Atlanta.

Officials of PAX Streamline see the circulation control technology as key to the development of a new generation of turbines that could significantly lower the cost of producing electricity from the wind.

"This is a significant validation of our established turbine R&D," said PAX CEO John Webley. "With this grant, we can rapidly accelerate our research program and, within the next two years, deploy a prototype wind turbine which demonstrates our game-changing technology."

Download Center

  • Industrial Premium Library

    Empower your workforce with the manufacturing, industrial maintenance, operations, HSE, compliance, and professional development skills they need to complete their tasks efficiently and safely. Not only will you boost productivity, reliability, skills, and morale but you’ll also onboard faster, and retain your best employees while meeting regulatory standards. Vector Solutions offers over 1,800 award-winning eLearning courses designed to keep your employees safe, transfer knowledge of fundamentals, and develop industry and job-specific skills that reduce downtime, maintenance costs and more.

  • Safety Metrics & Insights Webinar

    EHS professionals have been tackling the subject of how to best measure performance for many years. Lagging indicators like the Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR) and Days Away Restricted Transfer Rate (DART) are a good place to start, but you shouldn’t forget about the leading indicators that your workforce does every day to prevent incidents from occurring. Learn about some of the most common KPIs of safety programs and how Vector EHS Management software can be used to track these metrics in this webinar.

  • Risk Matrix Guide

    Understanding the components of a risk matrix will allow you and your organization to manage risk effectively. Download this guide for details on risk matrix calculations including severity, probability, and risk assessment.

  • OSHA Recordkeeping Guide

    In case you missed it, OSHA recently initiated an enforcement program to identify employers who fail to electronically submit Form 300A recordkeeping data to the agency. When it comes to OSHA recordkeeping, there are always questions regarding the requirements and ins and outs. This guide is here to help! We’ll explain reporting, recording, and online reporting requirements in detail.

  • Safety Metrics Guide

    Is your company leveraging its safety data and analytics to maintain a safe workplace? With so much data available, where do you start? This downloadable guide will give you insight on helpful key performance indicators (KPIs) you should track for your safety program

  • Vector Solutions

Featured Whitepaper

OH&S Digital Edition

  • OHS Magazine Digital Edition - September 2022

    September 2022

    Featuring:

    • ESG
      EHS Will Guide Future ESG Success for Many Organizations
    • MACHINE GUARDING
      Handling Material Handlers: Training Beyond PIT Requirements
    • EHS SOFTWARE
      The Missing Link with EHS Software
    • HEARING PROTECTION
      Noise Surveys from the Trenches
    View This Issue