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Winds Are Changing

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Wind power is one of the most promising renewable energy resource. Wind power could provide 20 percent of the world’s electricity supply by 2030 as nations have started focusing more towards finding the ways to reduce carbon emissions in line with commitments made at last year’s Paris Climate Summit.

More focus on wind power technology’s research and development will help in the growth of Wind sector. New technologies will help in generating wind power more efficiently and at lower costs. Important innovations are emerging to make turbine manufacturing easier and cheaper; create intelligent turbines that collect and inter- pret real-time data; and model and adjust wind plant flows and turbine configurations to maximize wind harvest. Some of the major technology interventions that are coming up include:

Multi-rotor turbine: As per the concept of wind turbines, scale needs to be increased to boost power output. Vestas has unveiled a multi-rotor concept machine that it says would not depend on thescale concept. The four-rotor demonstrator turbine at the Risø test site is part of a process of continu- ous innovation and exploration designed to help reduce the cost of energy from wind.

The concept turbine incorporates four refurbished pitch-controlled V29-225kW turbines with unchanged 29-metre rotor diameter, built in the first half of the 1990s. This would ensure that when repowering  is being done at high potential wind sites to scale up generation, the functioning old turbines are being put to better uses.

Larger wind turbines: Denmark would soon be having the world’s largest wind turbine working. It is currently under- construction. Just one of its three blades stretches more than 290 feet and when complete it will be able to provide power to  more  than  10,000  homes.  The Adwen

AD8-180 will stand on a mast more than 295 feet (90 metres) tall when it’s installed. Rotor diameter would be 590 feet (180m). The first onshore prototype of the 8 MW system will be installed by the end of the year in Bremerhaven, Germany. These tur- bines would later be a part of wind farms in France, each with a capacity of 500 MW of energy.

However, larger wind turbines may not be the ultimate solution for the growth of the renewable sector. The two main problems with wind turbines are that they are impos- ing, intrusive structures and they don’t work in a light breeze.

Floating wind farm: Scottish coast will have the world’s largest floating windfarm as its developers were granted a seabed lease. Five 6MW turbines will be build by Statoil, the Norwegian energy company, in the North Sea and generating electricity by the end of 2017. The company has already operated a single turbine off Norway.

This technology is still a bit far-fetched dream for the Indian wind power sector as the country is still in the initial stages of implementing its first fixed offshore wind farm project.

Huge 7MW floating wind turbine is Fukushima’s energy solution. World’s largest floating wind turbine, 620-foot and 1,500-ton windmill atop a 5,000-ton podi- um will be setup mere 12 miles from the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The turbine will generate up to 7MW of electricity, making it Japan’s most powerful wind turbine, and the most powerful float- ing turbine in the world.

Apart from these, wind energy technology is also leaping ahead with many new path breaking concepts that may become the norm in the wind power industry over the long term:

Typhoon wind turbines: Japan has already faced 6 typhoons in  2016  and    it has caused a lot of destruction, but Atsushi Shimizu hasinvented world’s first typhoon turbine, an extremely durable, kitchen beater-shaped device that can not only withstand the forces generated by a typhoon, but it can convert all that power into useable energy. Shimizu’s calculations show that a  sufficiently  large  array  of  his turbines could capture enough energy from a single typhoon to power Japan for 50 years.

A wind turbine without blades. The Spanish engineers have developed a wind turbine that will have no blades, thisturbine is just a hollow straw that sticks up 40 feet from the ground and vibrates like a guitar string when the wind thrums by.Instead of capturing energy via the circular motion of a propeller, the Vortex takes advantage of what’s known as vorticity, an aerodynamic effect that produces a pattern of spinning vortices.

This kinetic energy is converted into elec- tricity via an  alternator  that  multiplies  the frequency of the mast’s oscillation to improve the energy-gathering efficiency. The result is a turbine that’s 50% less expensive than a bladed one, and nearly silent. And while each Vortex turbine is also 30% less efficient at capturing energy, wind farms can double the number of turbines that occupy a given area if they go blade- less. That’s a net energy gain of 40%. Plus, the turbine has no gears or moving parts, keeping the maintenance costs low.

Tree structure wind turbine New Wind, a French company designed a tree shaped wind turbine, this turbine will have plastic leaves which silently turn in the breeze, even though which way the breeze blows. New Wind is estimating that the trees could meet half of the average French household’s annual energy needs or run a small, low-consumption office.

While larger industrial  turbines can only work in winds of over 35 kilometres per hour, the leaves capture energy from wind speeds of less than 8kph. The tree is over 9 metres tall and 7 metres wide, with a total of 54 green leaf-turbines that can capture up to 5.4 kilowatts of energy at a time and produce around 2,400 kWh annually.

A big advantage of the wind system over solar power is space. A 5.4kW solar array would take up  about 131 square metre of roof, but a wind tree’s curved branches could be attached to any balcony or roof- top.

As these instances suggest, there is hardly any stagnation in innovation in  the  wind energy sector, which signals a healthy growth trajectory. With these innovations happening at such a wide front, there is     a need for the Indian regulatory sector to remain abreast with these latest developments. This would help in reducing one less hurdle in the Indian wind power sectors growth story.

At present, Indian wind power sector has to operate under a significant amount of standardization, and this leaves limited room to evolve and experiment. This is one of the reasons that even after India being the 5th largest wind power producer in the world, it is still limited to onshore installations and that too up to a certain capacity. Today, more than 90% of the world’s offshore wind capacity is installed in northern Europe and UK, even after India having such an impressive shoreline.

As with any new technology, wind technol- ogy innovations also raise some skepticism. Most upcoming wind-harvesting technologies only work at a fraction of their most efficient output. Scaling it up for mass generation, while making it commercially viable would be biggest challenge for the manufacturers.

Credits: Feedback Consulting