Wind energy is one of the most sustainable and environmentally friendly ways to generate electricity. This article will review recent advances in wind harvesting technology, making wind energy more efficient and economical to pursue a carbon-free future.
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The wind is an essential renewable energy source, accounting for approximately 10% of global electricity production. A wind turbine can generate up to 6 million kWh annually, depending on turbine size, wind speed, and environmental conditions.
In the last several decades, wind turbines have been one of the most important renewable energy sources that reduce coal gas emissions.
NTU's Wind Harvester
Researchers from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore have designed a low-cost wind harvester that can generate electricity at wind speeds as low as two meters per second.
The harvester can generate up to 3 volts and 290 microwatts of electricity, which is sufficient to operate a commercial sensor module and allow it to transmit data to a computer or mobile phone.
The 15 by 20 cm device may be installed on building sides and is perfect for urban environments. The scientists at NTU believe their wind harvester has the potential to replace batteries in structural health monitoring sensors and LED lights used in bridges and skyscrapers.
Aeromine’s Rooftop Bladeless Wind Turbines
Aeromine Technologies has developed a novel bladeless wind energy technology compatible with domestic solar power and electricity systems.
This innovative wind harvesting device captures and amplifies the building’s airflow using aerodynamics similar to racing car airfoils. The turbine is under 10 square feet and does not look like a conventional wind turbine because of its bladeless design.
It can be simply installed on the edge of a building, producing up to 50% more energy for the same price as a rooftop solar system. It also generates electricity around the clock in any weather condition while only taking up 10% of the roof space required by solar panels.
SeaTwirl’s Offshore Vertical-Axis Wind Turbine
Hurricane-safe, cheaper wind turbines, and lower-cost electricity. That is the offshore wind energy future promised by SeaTwirl.
SeaTwirl, a Swedish turbine company, deployed vertical-axis wind turbines with a tower coupled to a subsea construction comprised of a keel and floating element. As the wind’s energy forces the turbine to spin, the keel and counter-rotating moment maintain the structure’s stability, similar to a sailboat’s keel.
Offshore wind turbines capitalize on the high wind speeds far from the coast.
SeaTwirl’s anchoring system permits wind energy harvesting in previously inaccessible ocean areas. Due to their increased structural strength in hurricane winds, offshore wind farms would benefit more from investing in SeaTwirl’s vertical wind turbines.
Video Credit: SeaTwirl/YouTube.com
Larger Yet Light-Weight Turbine Blades
Scientists from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) are collaborating to construct 206-meter rotors for land-based turbines to minimize energy conversion costs and maximize energy production.
Larger blades capture more wind energy to generate power at the expense of more weight. However, the SNL and NREL have reduced the blades’ stiffness to make them lighter, allowing them to catch more incoming wind, regardless of wind speed.
This blade has a narrow, curled tip that enhances wind collection. As a result, their novel turbine blade design can collect 12% more wind than conventional turbines.
Wind Catching Systems’ Floating Multi-Turbine Technology
Wind Catching Systems (WCS) will commercialize its floating wind harvesting technology for offshore wind farms in collaboration with the institute of energy technology and the Norwegian energy service provider Aibel.
Compared to traditional offshore wind farms, the multi-turbine technology uses multiple 1 MW turbines arranged in a lattice structure, drastically reducing the cost and amount of land needed for electricity production.
The company claims that its wind-harvesting units are five times more efficient than conventional wind turbines and that a single unit can generate enough electricity to power approximately 80,000 homes.
The technology offers lower maintenance expenses than current offshore wind technologies and a 50-year lifespan.
Future of Wind Energy
Increased awareness of using clean energy and the desire to mitigate the impacts of global warming has contributed to a significant rise in wind energy’s popularity over the past few decades.
However, this raises challenges for consistent and continuous development of wind harvesting technology, such as improved blade design, maintenance, and comprehensive evaluation of wind turbine performance.
Global wind electricity production grew by a record 273 TWh in 2021. This growth rate was the greatest among all renewable energy resources and was 55% greater than what was achieved in 2020. Such quick growth was made possible by a record-breaking surge in wind capacity expansions, which reached 113 GW in 2020 compared to 59 GW in 2019.
However, to meet net zero by 2050, which calls for nearly 7900 TWh of wind electricity production in 2030, average annual capacity additions must be increased to almost 250 GW, which is more than twice the record growth of 2020.
This continuous capacity expansion can be achieved by streamlining and reducing the costs for onshore and offshore wind harvesting projects.
References and Further Reading
Cowan, L. (2022) A New Wind Turbine Design Promises Better Offshore Energy. [Online]. Inhabitat. Available at: https://inhabitat.com/a-new-wind-turbine-design-promises-better-offshore-energy/ (Accessed on 19 October 2022).
IEA. (2022) Wind Electricity. [Online]. International Energy Agency. Available at: https://www.iea.org/reports/wind-electricity (Accessed on 19 October 2022).
Lewis, M. (2022) Could Rooftop Wind Give Rooftop Solar a Run for its Money? [Online]. Electrek. Available at: https://electrek.co/2022/10/14/rooftop-wind-solar/ (Accessed on 19 October 2022).
Memija, A. (2022) Multi-Turbine Floating Offshore Wind Catcher Secures Enova Grant. [Online]. OffshoreWIND.biz. Available at: https://www.offshorewind.biz/2022/10/17/multi-turbine-floating-offshore-wind-catcher-secures-enova-grant/ (Accessed on 19 October 2022).
Nanyang Technological University. (2022) Scientists Develop Inexpensive Device that can Harvest Energy from a Light Breeze and Store it as Electricity. [Online]. ScienceDaily. Available at: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/10/221006092331.htm (Accessed on 19 October 2022).
Shah, R., Zhang, S., & Kim, A. (2021) Trending Developments in Wind Turbine Technology and the Future of Wind Energy. [Online]. Altenergymag. Available at: https://www.altenergymag.com/article/2021/03/trending-developments-in-wind-turbine-technology-and-the-future-of-wind-energy/34742 (Accessed on 19 October 2022).
Zhao, C., Hu, G., & Yang, Y. (2022) A Cantilever-Type Vibro-Impact Triboelectric Energy Harvester for Wind Energy Harvesting. Mechanical Systems and Signal Processing, 177, 109185. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ymssp.2022.109185