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Out for a spin: Innovations in wind power

From 2005, the total installed capacity of global wind energy shows a 14 percent annualized growth rate for Asia, Europe and North America.

Germany to speed up green energy projects in 'gigantic' effort
Germany will set aside more land for wind turbines - Copyright AFP/File Anthony WALLACE
Germany will set aside more land for wind turbines - Copyright AFP/File Anthony WALLACE

Climate change is rapid and intensifying to the extent that the Earth’s atmosphere could add 1.5 degrees C of average warming by 2040. Among the measures considered to address this is increased investment in renewable energy. One aspect of this that has been gaining traction is wind power.

Progress continues to be made in the wind energy industry as the cost of development drops, driven by emerging technologies and buttressed by government incentive policies. The main areas of focus rest with measures to make wind farms more efficient.

Wind power growth

Since 2005, the total installed capacity of global wind energy shows a 14 percent annualized growth rate for Asia, Europe and North America, according to Cornell University researchers.

The growth is demonstrated by global wind energy electricity production expanding from 104 terawatt-hours (one trillion watts for one hour) in 2005 to 1,273 terawatt-hours in 2018, and to around 26,600 terawatt-hours of global electricity demand today.

Understanding the seasons

One area being looked at are diurnal (daytime) and seasonal patterns of wind speeds and how these relate to energy production. Such data can help with the site of a wind farm installation and the expected energy generation. Key metrics include wind speed probability distribution during 24-hour cycles and wind patterns on a seasonal basis.

Furthermore, understanding weather patterns and wind speed data helps to set and to control wind turbine parameters and system peak load.

The assessment appears in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, with the research headed “A two-phase wind speed simulation model considering diurnal and seasonal patterns and its application to adequacy assessment.”

Cutting the noise

One of the downsides of wind farms is the noise generated, resulting in the positioning of wind turbines often being unsuitable close to dwellings. Steps are underway to lower the noise level and an ongoing project called the Wind Farm Noise Study is seeking to improve wind turbine noise assessment methods, guidelines and wind turbine design.

One example of such research is with an improved understanding of the directional nature of wind turbine noise, something that is derived from machine learning. This reveals that residents living in downwind and crosswind conditions are likely to be more disturbed by wind turbines.

The research appears in the journal Measurement, with the paper titled “Long-term quantification and characterisation of wind farm noise amplitude modulation.”

Energy capture

One problem with solar power and wind power relates to energy capture. This is often limited although advances in a more stable way to store this important energy will help to make the technology more suitable for different types of locales.

An example of innovations in this area include the development, from the University of Akron, of a stable catholyte (positive electrolyte) that enables cells to keep than 90 percent of capacity over 6,000 cycles. These cells, which can capture solar and wind power, would have a projected lifetime of more than 16 years of uninterrupted service in a pace of one cycle per day.

The development of the power cell appears in the publication Nature Energy, where the research is titled “Symmetry-breaking design of an organic iron complex catholyte for a long cyclability aqueous organic redox flow battery.”

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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