Machine Design

Turbine blades excel in winds that blow slow

A blade developed by researchers at Sandia National Laboratories should make wind turbines more efficient at low-wind speeds.

Researchers at Sandia Labs test a new sweep-twist adaptive rotor blade for wind turbines by loading it with 55-gallon drums filled with weights.

The sweep-twist adaptive rotor (Star) is the first blade of its kind produced in utility-grade size. The gently curved tip, or sweep, is intended for regions like the Midwest where wind speeds average about 13 mph at 10-m high. Sweep lets the blade respond to gusts in a manner that lowers fatigue loads on the blade. Low-wind-speed sites are abundant in the U.S. the low-speed turbines could increase the land area that can be economically developed for wind energy twentyfold.

The 27.1-m blade, made of fiberglass and epoxy resin, is almost 3 m longer than the ones it will replace.


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