A new construction at a test center in Østerild, Denmark has become the largest wind turbine in the world.
Well, that title depends on which criteria determine "largest." If rotor diameter is your rule, Siemens's latest, the SWT-6.0-154, has surpassed the previous holder, the second-generation Enercon E126, by over two dozen feet. While the E126 has approximately a 127-meter rotor diameter, Siemens's new offshore wind turbine boasts a 154-meter rotor diameter--and its immense 75-meter long blades combined with its 4-meter wide hub means a massive swept area of 18,600 square meters.
With a 6MW turbine, under the most optimal conditions, the new model will produce around 65 percent more electricity than earlier models from the company. This SWT-6.0-154 won't be a lonely giant for long; according to Gizmodo, Siemens plans to construct 300 more of these massive machines.
The massive blades for this new turbine are built as a single piece, without heavy fittings and connections, allowing a weight savings of 20 percent. This will likely be a greater benefit for offshore turbines like this, since enormously long single piece blades are hard to transport over land.
The size isn't simply for world-record showiness. The larger the wind turbine, the more energy produced, according to a study by Swiss and Dutch Scientists, accounting for both size and the improved technology over time. Constructing massive offshore wind farms makes scaling up easier and makes harnessing wind energy more cost effective. Since expensive underwater foundations are needed to support these turbines, having larger but fewer wind turbines will reduce production costs.
Image via Siemens
The American Wind Energy Association announced that 2012 marked the wind energy industry’s strongest year ever. This past year wind energy accounted for over 40 percent of new generating capacity in the United States, surpassing all other energy-producing industries in new capacity, including those dependent on fossil fuels. The wind-powered generators currently installed will reduce US carbon emissions by 1.8 percent, preventing 95.9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year.
Although faced with government policy-related challenges, including the threat of the Production Tax Credit expiration (extended at the last minute by the “fiscal cliff package,” the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012) the wind energy industry has much to celebrate. Rob Gramlich, AWEA Interim CEO, expressed his excitement over the industry’s triumphs, stating, “It is a real testament to American innovation and hard work that for the first time ever a renewable energy source was number one in new capacity. We are thrilled to mark this major milestone in the nation's progress toward a cleaner energy system.”
Including projects from 32 states and Puerto Rico, the wind energy industry installed turbines capable of generating over 13,000 MW in 2012. (2010 holds the previous record for new wind power at 10,000 MW.) Texas and California top the list of states with new capacity installations, providing 1,826 MW and 1,656 MW respectively. The collective wind power in the US reached a whopping 60,000 MW (60 gigawatts) in January, enough power to provide electricity to every home in Colorado, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, and Ohio combined - the equivalent of powering nearly 15 million homes.
“Despite a considerable amount of policy uncertainty, the US wind power sector proved to be remarkably resilient in 2012, reaching a record level of installations while global wind investment fell 13%," US Director of The Climate Group, Amy Davidsen said. "But for the sector to continue... to grow, we must provide a more stable investment climate through clear, long-term policy signals.”
via: American Wind Energy Association
While we usually look at wind turbines chiefly as a cleaner, better source of electricity. But in many parts of the world, electricity is only one of several needs faced by much of the population. In answer to a broader set of needs, the Eole Water WMS1000 turbine uses some of the power that it produces to extract as much as 1200 liters (more than 315 gallons) of clean water per day by condensing it from the air.
The WMS 1000 produces up to 30 kW of electricity, in addition to the water it provides. That may not seem to be much compared to the grid scale turbines being installed throughout the developed world, but that can be significant to a community with more moderate energy needs. It is also designed to require little maintenance, since trained technicians may not be readily available where these turbines are deployed.
The turbine is a 13 meter (about 42.5 feet) diameter rotor with a 24 meter (78.75 feet) hub height. This makes it manageable and transportable, which are important considerations for deployment in remote locations. The WMS1000 is designed to be entirely self-sufficient, making it well suited to locations where there is no supply infrastructure for power or water. It also has very little environmental impact, emits no CO2, and does not impact surface water or underground water supplies.
Expected pricing for the turbine is around $600,000, but these units should have a lifespan of more than 20 years.
image via: Eole Water
With global production and distribution of goods a reality of 21st Century life, cargo ships are ubiquitous. They bring goods to consumers all over the world, and more and more ships are transporting goods and raw materials, all while burning some of the most polluting fuels. A recent article about the rise of wind-powered designs for cargo vessels notes that, "If the world’s shipping fleet were a country, it would be the world’s sixth leading emitter of greenhouse gases." So there is lots of good to be done with improving the efficiency of cargo ships. And a number of companies are taking steps in that direction.
At the University of Tokyo, researchers are working on a design for a ship that uses rigid framework and fiber-reinforced plastic instead of canvas for sails. These high-tech sails can be flown, much more like an airplane wing, increasing the efficiency with which they propel the ship. And, when the vessel reaches port, the sails telescope down upon themselves, to allow free access to the decks and cargo without the interference of masts and sail rigging lines getting in the way.
Among the companies working to commercialize wind-powered cargo, B9 Shipping has recently tested a model of their 3,000 ton vessel. Although this is far smaller than the largest cargo freighters, which can have more than 100 times the cargo capacity, it is a first step in developing the technology and proving its financial viability.
When we wrote about B9 in 2010, the expected cost of the prototype vessel was just under $25 million. The New York Times is now reporting that the company is seeking $45 million in financing to build their prototype. (This may not be an entirely equal comparison, since the financing the company is seeking may include more than just the capital construction costs for the ship.)
Many of these vessels will not be solely wind powered, even at sea. Not unlike automobiles, where gas-electric hybrids first broke down boundaries and showed the workability of alternative systems, these ships will also be hybrids. B9 plans to use engines that burn bio-methane instead of fossil fuel as a secondary propulsion system.
image via: University of Tokyo News
hat tip to: @paolobacigalupi