Bioinspired turbine blades offer new perspectives for wind energy

V. Cognet, S. Courrech du Pont, I. Dobrev, F. Massouh, B. Thiria ; Proc. Roy. Soc. A, 473, (2017)

Wind energy is becoming a significant alternative solution for future energy production. Modern turbines now benefit from engineering expertise, and a large variety of different models exists, depending on the context and needs. However, classical wind turbines are designed to operate within a narrow zone centred around their optimal working point. This limitation prevents the use of sites with variable wind to harvest energy, involving significant energetic and economic losses. Here, we present a new type of bioinspired wind turbine using elastic blades, which passively deform through the air loading and centrifugal effects. This work is inspired from recent studies on insect flight and plant reconfiguration, which show the ability of elastic wings or leaves to adapt to the wind conditions and thereby to optimize performance. We show that in the context of energy production, the reconfiguration of the elastic blades significantly extends the range of operating regimes using only passive, non-consuming mechanisms. The versatility of the new turbine model leads to a large increase of the converted energy rate, up to 35%. The fluid/elasticity mechanisms involved for the reconfiguration capability of the new blades are analysed in detail, using experimental observations and modelling.

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