Increasing the Efficiency of Offshore Wind Turbines

 

Wind energy is an important move in the crossover to alternative energy sources. As wind energy itself increases in popularity, more wind farms are being constructed at offshore sites. With any form of energy, it is vital to maximize its efficiency and fortunately, engineers and scientists are making great strides toward that goal. Here are some of the ways that offshore wind turbines are being revolutionized to increase their efficiency.

Wind turbines are frequently constructed offshore at water depths of up to 40 meters. Scientists believe that one of the keys to maximizing efficiency lies in how the underwater construction of the turbines is stabilised. At present, turbines tend to be built on strong, free standing towers made of steel and concrete. New turbines placed offshore in the future will be more efficient because they will use a guyed tower that is stabilised by cables instead of these free standing steel towers. Early studies conclude that switching to this new construction method could double the turbine’s efficiency.

Engineers who are involved in designing and building wind turbines use an important term: harvesting ratio. The harvesting ratio represents the amount of energy produced by a wind turbine versus the amount of energy used in its construction. Reducing the energy used in the construction of a turbine by switching to guyed towers will significantly improve this harvesting ratio.

When you encounter an offshore wind turbine farm, what is visible to the eye is a collection of thin structures. However, the majority of the heavy equipment, the massive concrete and steel structure is below the surface of the water. These offshore turbines typically have a harvesting ratio of 15:1-- far less efficient than the average onshore turbine, which has a harvesting ratio of 40:1.

In addition to the heavy duty construction used in free standing towers for wind turbines, there is another issue with the foundation. The steel used in the foundation will begin to corrode over time. This significantly limits the life span of a turbine tower. This will be improved by using composite materials rather than steel to eliminate corrosion. Composites are also stronger and lighter than steel.

So, switching to composites from steel and using guyed towers will improve the harvesting ratio, but further efficiency can be gained from changing the way the guyed towers are held to the floor of the ocean by using anchors affixed to cables that hold the turbine in place. The strength of this design means that the underwater foundation does not need to be nearly so large and heavy. Together, these improvements can increase the harvesting ratio from 15:1 to 25:1.

This improvement in the harvesting ratio will go a long way toward furthering the cause of wind energy. These potential changes -- from free standing towers to guyed towers, and from steel and concrete foundations to composites-- will have a significant impact on the future of wind energy.

Whether you live along the shore or further inland, our experts at Windpower Technology can help you find the wind power solution that will work best for you. We specialise in small wind power systems for agricultural, commercial, residential and community use. We emphasis quality and efficiency when it comes to the systems we install, so you can trust that we choose every system we install carefully. Contact us at Windpower Technology today and see what we can do for your home or business.