Turbines of 200 meters high, 50 meters of blade, a power of up to 50 megawatts and low cost. It is the future of wind energy that, in order to compete with other sustainable sources, needs to move towards structures of greater height and power greater than those currently marketed, which are around 8 MW.
” Larger turbines are necessary to capture energy at an affordable cost, “ says Todd Griffith, member of ARPA-E, a program from which we are working to develop the wind technology of the future, designed for maritime installations. The University of Virginia and Sandia National Laboratories are promoting this project for the United States Department of Energy.
Compared to current wind turbines, this initiative aims to design the largest wind turbine in the world. To make this possible, the team will opt for a new blade concept called SUMR (Ultralight Segmented Rotors) that supports larger sizes. This, in turn, translates into a considerable increase in power, from the current 5-10 MW to 50 MW.
Inspired by a palm tree even in the alignment of the load, the blades of up to 50 meters adapt to the speed of the wind and are collected when it reaches speeds that can pose a risk. This design has more advantages, among them that it is possible to mitigate both the fatigue of the blades, as well as the tensions of the system, which translates directly into savings in production costs.
Conventional blades, Griffith explains, “are expensive in terms of production, deployment and maintenance beyond 10-15 MW. They must be rigid, to avoid fatigue and eliminate the risk of towers falling in gusts of strong wind. These rigid blades are heavy and their mass, which is directly related to cost, generates even more problems at extreme scales due to gravity ” , the expert contrasts what the market offers today, with what it can offer.
In addition, these marine turbines, on which experts from the American academic and business fields work, will have another advantage: far from being built in one piece, they will be manufactured in attachable sections. This will result even more in the costs, in this case of transport and installation, of a wind turbine that aspires to be low cost and, at the same time, the largest in the world.