The need to avoid burning of fossil fuels has increased emphasis on wind power generation. An inescapable trend is that turbine blades are getting bigger and bigger. But a new model that’s in the works is bigger than most people would imagine. Green energy researchers are currently working on a 656.2 feet long blade. That’s just bigger than two football fields.
This is interesting news considered that the current biggest blade is 262.5 feet. At the Ocotillo wind farm in Imperial County, which transmits electricity to San Diego, the blades are 173.9 feet long. But a team of researchers at the University of Virginia are determined to dwarf this. According to Eric Loth, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, this will be the extreme scale. Loth’s team includes participants from three other universities and two national libraries.
Already, the early design is ready, and the team has three years to make this mega blade a reality. Three blades will be attached to a tower to create a typical windmill. To accommodate blades this big, the tower will be about 1574 feet long, nearly a third of a mile. Just so you get the picture right, that’s over a hundred feet higher than the Empire State Building. It’s simply mind blowing, and Loth and his team know it.
These super-sized blades will generate 50 megawatts of electricity. That’s 25 times more than the typical turbine can generate today. Lucy Pao, a professor of electrical and computer engineering who’s also a member of the research team, said, “Two blades mean lower costs.” The goal of the project is to produce a prototype that will be tested by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado from 2019. The U.S. Energy Department is providing the funds, estimated at $3.5 million.
These mega blades would look way different than current turbines. For once, they would go downwind instead of facing the wind. Instead of creating one massive blade, 8 different blades will be used to come up with the mega blade. The concept will allow these pieces to morph (spread out) when the wind blows lightly so as to net as much power as possible. When the wind flow is strong, the blades will be able to contract, almost like a claw.
As the researcher’s mission unfolds, it’ll be interesting to know how this giant wind turbine looks once ready!