A new fiber optic laser system can reduce wear and increase output from wind turbines by sensing wind gusts from 1,000 meters away. Catch The Wind, a Virginia start-up, developed the device that allows turbines to adapt to the strength and direction of gusts before they hit.
Wind turbines lose one percent of their efficiency for every degree that a blade is out of alignment. Having a sensor to detect wind direction and speed could help protect the blades and boost efficiency, which also reduces cost. The company claims that the laser system increases efficiency by 10 percent and also reduces maintenance costs by 10 percent.
The laser, set for production in 2010, works by pulsing three invisible beams in front of the turbine that measure horizontal and vertical speeds and changes in direction. The turbine gets 20 seconds notice of the information gathered by the lasers, enough time to adapt to catch more wind and reduce mechanical strain.
The major drawback of wind power is its inconsistency. If this device is able to maximize the energy harnessed when wind is present, this could have great benefits, especially if advances are made in energy storage.
via MIT Technology Review
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