Bladeless Wind Turbines Making Wind Energy More Efficient and Sustainable
The recent power outage in Texas forced scientists to evaluate the shortcomings of wind energy. Of course, state electricity laws played a significant role in the tragedy, but renewable power technology also contributed to the blackout. As professionals took a closer look at the system's structure, they could identify four flaws in the sustainability of conventional turbines.
Waste creation, weather impacts, biodiversity interference and general efficiency impact the sustainability of wind power. Fortunately, innovators are crafting new technologies to enhance the efficiency of renewable energy systems. To understand sustainable solutions' functions, we must first evaluate the issue with conventional wind power systems.
The materials producers use to build turbine blades are unrecyclable. Around 8,000 blades fail each year, proving ineffective for future use. These parts are removed and sawed up to fit in the bed of a trailer.
Trucks carry the divided components to designated landfills which bury the blades in shallow trenches. As our reliance on renewable energy increases, the amount of landfill space will decrease. The current disposal method degrades the land, making it inhabitable to prior native species.
In freezing temperatures, turbine blades can ice over, making them unfunctional until thawing occurs. This was the leading cause of wind energy failure in Texas.
Some regions offer cold weather packages, which include a heating system to thaw blades in freezing temperatures. Unfortunately, with the climate changing, it is hard to predict weather patterns. Turbines without these packages have to seek external aid to regain efficiency.
Helicopters must travel to these structures and spray them with antifreeze. The amount of greenhouse gases emitted in this process decreases the sustainability of the renewable energy system. And even with the cold weather package, cold weather impacts the functionality of turbines.
Their performance efficiency can degrade up to 20% when temperatures increase and wind speed remains consistent. Most turbines are placed in cool and windy regions to maximize their exposure to power. When this weather degrades efficiency, it contradicts the system's function.
Wind turbines pose a threat to birds, interfering with the organic ecosystem. Around 140,000 and 500,000 birds are killed by blade collisions each year. This number decreases the sustainability of the renewable energy system.
Turbine manufacturing facilities burn fossil fuels to power production. The emissions released in this process place the sustainability of wind power at an initial disadvantage. When in use, a turbine's average efficiency runs between 30% and 45%, making it hard to bypass their original emissions.
Nearly 70% of civilians believe that we should obtain all of our energy from renewable sources. To meet this demand efficiently and sustainably, scientists searched for a solution to the issues presented above.
Innovators produced a new wind harnessing technology without blades to challenge prior shortcomings. The new product consists of a vertical cylinder with an elastic rod. The top oscillates when presented with wind, which generates power through an alternator.
There are two working parts to the cylinder – the outer shell and the top region. The outer shell is ridged and can vibrate where the top is less restricted and can oscillate freely. Rather than circulating, the structure bobs around, producing energy. This function differs from conventional turbines, which still generate 7% of global electricity.
Bladeless wind turbines eliminate the waste produced by traditional blades. They also reduce the need to fix wear and tear caused by friction. The singular system conserves energy in cold climates as well.
Rather than relying on a cold-weather package to heat three separate blades, the new structure only requires heating of the cylinder. They also conserve biodiversity, causing no threat to birds. This adds to the sustainability and efficiency of the bladeless model.
What's to Come
The new renewable technology may be the future of wind energy. Scientists are still working to increase the structures' efficiency, but they already pass conventional turbines in the realm of sustainability. As the demand for renewable energy rises, our view of bladeless turbines will increase.
Jane Marsh works as an environmental and energy writer. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Environment.co.