Friday, 01 August 2014
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Predictive technology could boost smaller wind turbines

Small wind turbines could capture more energy by predicting when gusts of wind will occur, using software under development by a British firm.

Quiet Revolution produces small vertical-axis wind turbines designed for urban and industrial settings where nearby buildings can block the wind and make it more inconsistent than in open, rural locations.

These turbines use a system called Gust Tracking to match their speed to the wind velocity and capture the maximum amount of energy.

Now the firm hopes to use data collected by each turbine to model the weather conditions of its location and predict gusts of wind before they happen so the turbines reach optimal speed quicker.

Because the energy in the wind is proportional to its speed cubed, and stronger gusts in these locations often last for mere minutes or even seconds, it’s important to react to changes as quickly as possible.

‘Something like 30 to 40 per cent of the energy available is in these short-period fluctuations,’ Quiet Revolution’s innovation and research director, Tamas Bertenyi, told The Engineer.

‘The performance actually increases with increased turbulence intensity, which is not the case for usual wind turbines.’

The new software will build on the existing Gust Tracking system, which uses an ultrasonic anemometer to measure wind speed and combines that data with knowledge of the turbine’s aerodynamics to work out the optimal turbine speed.

‘Although we’re adjusting the speeds, we rarely ever put energy into the turbine to chase a gust,’ said Bertenyi. ‘What we effectively do is reduce the load very quickly and the wind energy is used to accelerate the turbine.’

The next step is to use recorded wind data to build up a picture of the likely weather patterns in each location and predict when a gust is coming.

As more information is collected, the software should be able to learn more about an area and improve its predictions over time.

‘It’s short-term forecasting in the order of a few seconds,’ said Bertenyi. ‘If you know the gust is coming and you’re already racing after it as it’s starting, that’s how you get the most out of the gust tracker.

‘We’ve got to the point where we understand what’s possible and now we’re trying to achieve that. In terms of making it into a product we’re still some way out.’

From next year, the firm will be working on the project with a maths PhD student from Edinburgh University, funded by the EPSRC through a knowledge transfer network grant.


Readers' comments (7)

  • Anyone have an application for this on recently-rumored Maglev turbines?

    Or would such turbines be frictionless-enough to not need this software?

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  • What is needed is some sofware to tell these people that small grid connected wind turbines are a complete waste of money.

    This is more smoke and mirrors from an industry that will not believe the maths.

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  • Are small grid connected turbines ineffective due to the losses in the grid. Am I correct in thinking they are only effective if they are close to the point of use thus avoiding grid losses. In which case a large turbine connected to a town or village supply would be more effective than 20 turbines in the middle of nowhere connected to the grid. I hear so many conflicting reports.

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  • Kerry,

    A 2megawatt utility sized wind turbine in the middle of nowhere is much more cost effective that 2000 1kilowatt turbines in the middle of a city in purchase price alone, without taking into consideration other things, such as average hub height and transmission losses (low voltage through many thin wires)

    It is only by forming co-operatives to buy large wind turbines (www.baywind.co.uk is an example) is it worth while for private individuals to get into wind; if they are off-grid then it is a different ball game.

    But it is just like politicians to get things about face; in the new Feed In Tariffs the larger the wind turbine the less the price is paid for each kilowatt hour of the electricity it generates.

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  • Betz' Law and the GGS model notwithstanding, the knowledge gained by such efforts may have value when applied to more viable turbine solutions.

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  • CG: You're thinking too much like an engineer - efficiency, long life what are the point of these characteristics in our consumer world. You want lots of smaller units, requiring regular maintenance sold to lots of people. Then you have job creation. How much money am I gonna make selling someting that'll last forever...its cynical but true.

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  • Tim,

    Many of the utility turbines are being replaced with larger wind turbine, and then sold on to third world countries or cooperative groups.

    As for companies that make things that last not succeeding, 80% of all the Rolls Royce cars ever made are still on the road, and that company is still going strong.

    Thinking like an engineer comes from visiting engineering sites like this one, but I left school 50 odd years ago without any academic qualifications whatsoever, and I haven't attained any since. That is what worries many when I read some of the comments posted here - yours included.

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