You may be wondering where a wind turbine fits into a residential solar blog since it’s, well, wind-powered… or is it? Fact is, wind is created by convection currents caused by the warming and cooling of the earth’s crust. So, technically, wind generation is an indirect form of solar power. The difference is that with wind, you don’t have to re-ignite the stored sunlight. Anyway, these new GE behemoths, dubbed the Next-Gen Wind Turbine, actually have the capacity to power 1,000 homes each! That’s some solar — I mean wind — power.
By increasing blade length by 40 percent to 176 feet, along with making the blades more aerodynamic, this vastly larger windmill can still turn in winds that are 7 to 70 miles per hour, comparable to most standard wind turbines. Also, by simplifying the generator and drive-train to cut down on offshore maintenance from failing gear boxes (a major problem in wind turbines), GE has brought wind harvesting into the offshore arena and revolutionized the design at the same time. Take that, oil rigs! Just kidding. Seriously though, there is enough wind blowing along the coastlines to power the entire American nation four times!
The blades are one of two crowning glories on this piece of renewable energy masterwork. They are both curved and bent backwards, allowing them to handle gusts by twisting with their natural curve, rather than bending like most turbine blades do. The bending in standard blades renders them inefficient in a gust of wind and can break or damage them severely.
The next massive improvement is the 90-ton generator with a 20-foot ring of magnets. This massive wonder allows the turbine to keep turning without having to maintain gears or change their oil, a boon to the offshore maintenance crew. Traditionally, the gearbox is used to speed up the drive-train to generate larger amounts of electricity at lower wind speeds.
A few other neat things: the pitch controllers can rotate the blades automatically out of harm’s way in major gusts, or adjust the blades by fractions of degrees to maximize output. The blades are not solely fiberglass; there is carbon fiber at critical points, which adds strength and drops pounds. Converters and transformers stabilize and boost the generated electricity from 690 volts to 22,000 for traveling well over long distance power lines.
Pretty dang cool and it doesn’t take up one inch of usable landmass. This is just another in a growing list of smart innovations for renewable energy (and solar power).
FYI: Solar Power is any power source that originates in the sun (everything known to man but fission) and Solar Photovoltaic is the direct conversion of sunlight into electricity.