GE’s ecoROTR could lift wind turbine efficiency

A wind turbine with a “clown’s nose” could give efficiency of power generation some serious boost.

Named ecoROTR, the experimental design from General Electric (GE) is being tested since last month in Tehachapi at the edge of the Mojave Desert in California.

The ecoROTR turbine stands at 450 feet tall from base to the tip of the blade. It has a large, spinning silver aluminum dome (the nose) bolted to the rotor, a report states.

According to wind tunnel data, the 20,000-pound dome which has a diameter of 60feet can greatly improve efficiency of turbines in windy locations currently inaccessible to the industry.

Currently GE has attached the dome to a 1.7-megawatt wind turbine, one of its most powerful machines. The turbine itself is mounted on a 300-foot tower, which is also a prototype according to GE.

The traditional steel tubes of the tower have been replaced by “space-frame” design which uses metal latticework wrapped in a polyester weave coat.

The ergonomic design allows the girders to be loaded inside shipping containers and transported onshore by means of ordinary trucks. The whole set up can be bolted together in otherwise inaccessible places, GE claims.

The project is part of GE’s decade-long ecomagination initiative, focused on “building machines with lower environmental impact that save customers money”.

The ecoROTR is aimed to address two problems with wind turbines: wind wastage and the size of blades.

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Most turbines are not able to efficiently utilize all the wind that blows their way and the blades and towers are too big to be transported to remote locations where the wind conditions are ideal.

The aluminium nose of the ecoROTR is meant to deflect wind that is otherwise wasted when it hits the hub. Wind deflected to the tips of the blade could help it to be better harvested for power generation. One other advantage the nose offers is that it helps increase the size of rotors without lengthening the blades.

Tests on the idea at GE’s wind tunnel lab in upstate New York showed that the ecoROTR improved turbine performance by 3 percent, which is significant in terms of projects of the scale of wind farms.

“This is the pinnacle of wind power,” Mike Bowman, the leader of sustainable energy projects at GE Global Research says. “I get the feeling ecoROTR and the space-frame tower could be the perfect couple.”

Ajith Kumar S

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