UCLA researchers in the Department of Mechanical Engineering have demonstrated improved aerodynamic and mechanical performance of wind turbines with a parafoil design that reduces wind turbine rotor weight along with a “drag start” method for rotation of lift-driven wind turbines.
The Department of Energy’s commitment to having wind power supply 20% of the national end-use electricity demand by 2030 has prompted the need for wind turbine integration into urban and suburban environments. However, integrating wind turbines into these non-traditional locations is limited by noise generation, structural vibrations, installation costs, weak and variable winds, safety and low performance. Moreover, the current approach to increasing power production by making larger rotors does not satisfy the requirements for building-integrated wind turbines. Therefore, there is a need for enhanced turbine performance that is complemented with weight, size and cost reduction.
UCLA researchers have developed two innovations for wind turbines: 1) a parafoil design that reduces wind turbine rotor weight and 2) a “drag start” method that self-starts the rotation of lift-driven wind turbines. The parafoil structure significantly reduces the blade mass in comparison to state-of-the-art designs. The design may have a flexible skin and inflatable/collapsible characteristics. It can also make use of lower quality winds and gracefully collapse upon any impact (e.g. by a bird, bat, or pedestrian). Moreover, the drag creating devices developed in the second invention can be combined with lift-driven vertical axis wind turbine (VAWT) principles to form a self-starting combination of the two. This innovation will benefit lift-driven wind turbines by eliminating the need for starting mechanisms. Overall, the “drag start” method will yield a more efficient performance since no energy will be expended to start turning the rotor. Thus, a combination of both inventions will yield an efficient turbine with reduced manufacturing and operating costs that can be installed in urban settings.
|United States Of America||Issued Patent||9,228,564||01/05/2016||2010-540|
Integrated wind turbines, wind energy, horizontal axis wind turbines (HAWT) vertical axis wind turbines (VAWT), lift-driven wind turbines, micro-wind turbines, parafoil, “drag start”, self-starting blade rotation, flexible skin wind blade