'Smart Turbine Blades' To Improve Wind Power
May 29, 2009 (Sustainable Business via Reuters)
"Researchers have developed a technique that uses sensors and computational software to constantly monitor forces exerted on wind turbine blades, a step toward improving efficiency by adjusting for rapidly changing wind conditions.
"The research by engineers at Purdue University and Sandia National Laboratories is part of an effort to develop a smarter wind turbine structure...[which] also could help improve wind turbine reliability by providing critical real-time information to the control system to prevent catastrophic wind turbine damage from high winds…"
The basics. (click to enlarge)
"The engineers embedded sensors called uniaxial and triaxial accelerometers inside a wind turbine blade as the blade was being built. The blade is now being tested on a research wind turbine at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agriculture Research Service laboratory in Bushland, Texas. Personnel from Sandia and the USDA operate the research wind turbines at the Texas site.
"Such sensors could be instrumental in future turbine blades that have "control surfaces" and simple flaps like those on an airplane's wings to change the aerodynamic characteristics of the blades for better control. Because these flaps would be changed in real time to respond to changing winds, constant sensor data would be critical."
A researcher displays an experimental blade design. (click to enlarge)
"Research findings show that using a trio of sensors and "estimator model" software…accurately reveals how much force is being exerted on the blades. Purdue and Sandia have applied for a provisional patent on the technique…
"Sensor data in a smart system might be used to better control the turbine speed by automatically adjusting the blade pitch while also commanding the generator to take corrective steps…[and] used to design more resilient blades…The sensors are capable of measuring acceleration occurring in various directions…[and] two types of acceleration….The research is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy through Sandia National Laboratories."