Print 37 comment(s) - last by Avitar.. on Aug 18 at 12:19 PM

One more complaint about the wind power industry falls to the...well, wind

Wind power usage is growing at a steady rate.  In the U.S., Texas plans to unleash a massive amount of capacity by connecting remote areas with turbines to their main power gridIn China, wind power is growing so fast the targets have to be constantly be revised upwards.

However, for all its potential, wind power has some key criticisms.  One major problem is the noise.  When wind turbines are placed in populated areas the noise they make when displacing air can be unpleasant.  It can range from a whistle to a clatter.  As a result, turbines in populated areas are forced to artificially limit their speeds to lower noise.  This however results in lower power output.

Now researchers at the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft Institute have developed technology to effectively cancel this noise, allowing full-speed operation.  To accomplish this, they first identified the significant sources of noise -- the rotor blades and the cogwheels in the gear box.  They then examined how these sources transmit vibrations into the central tower, causing it to produce a whining pitch that is considered very unpleasant.

André Illgen, a research associate at the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology IWU in Dresden, explains, "People find these monotone sounds particularly unpleasant, rather like the whining of a mosquito."

As the wind speed varies, the pitch of the noise varies as well.  This makes cheaper passive dampening systems ineffective.  Current active dampening solutions work better, but they are typically expensive and require rebuilding of the gearbox, as well.

Researchers with IWU worked with a number of other teams -- including researchers from Schirmer GmbH, ESM Energie- and Schwingungstechnik Mitsch GmbH and the Dr. Ziegler engineering office -- to develop a better active dampening solution. The researchers first attached sensors to the gearbox which measured vibrations from the gears and rotors.  This information is passed to a control system.

After processing the control system sends a signal to piezoelectrics on the gearbox's bearings that connect it to the pylon.  The piezoelectrics transform electric control signals into precise mechanical vibration.  The control unit uses this vibration to counteract the resonance in the system, by "pushing" in the exact opposite direction.  The researchers describe this as creating an "anti-sound".

While this kind of sound dampening technology is common in other fields, the key aspect of the research was the adaptation of it to the windmill form factor.  The new tech is mountable and should be relatively inexpensive.

Researchers already have tested a working scale model.  They plan to soon begin full field tests.  Assuming they continue in their early success, one of the major complaints about wind power may soon be on its way to being removed.  The speed may still need to be limited to protect the turbines in heavier winds, but overall this will raise their operational speed and output.

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Dilute sources of energy
By phxfreddy on 8/12/2008 5:41:53 PM , Rating: 3
And how many does it require to supplant 1 nuclear plant?

If you have ever driven into southern Californication you will realize 1 of these things is pretty and a thousand is really unsightly. ( unless you own them )

I just keep thinking wind power is a bit of a pipe dream but maybe it will turn out ok. When 10% of USA steel output is going towards towers one has to wonder. ( source James J. Cramer .... MadMoney )

RE: Dilute sources of energy
By wvh on 8/12/2008 6:04:36 PM , Rating: 1
If they could be built offshore into open sea, they wouldn't ruin the landscape or form a direct threat to most animals. I guess it would be possible to use sandbanks, rock formations or relatively shallow waters as the location for construction...

RE: Dilute sources of energy
By rudolphna on 8/13/2008 8:00:25 PM , Rating: 2
not to mention, if they were built sturdier than their land dwelling conterparts, they could be allowed to spin much faster, generating more elctricity.

RE: Dilute sources of energy
By herm0016 on 8/12/2008 6:58:06 PM , Rating: 2
Many of the towers are built of fiberglass also. I do not think this will ever be an issue. I worked for a company producing fiberglass parts for wind turbines.

RE: Dilute sources of energy
By grenableu on 8/12/2008 7:15:31 PM , Rating: 2
The small ones maybe. You don't build the big multi-megawatt 100 foot-tall towers out of fiberglass.

RE: Dilute sources of energy
By herm0016 on 8/13/2008 9:37:40 AM , Rating: 2
yes, actually you do. I know of at least 2 large manufactures that build towers for 2.5 MW turbines out of fiberglass. Fiberglass will not rust and has much better vibration absorption characteristics. The sections are very large, and very thick at the base.

RE: Dilute sources of energy
By grenableu on 8/13/2008 10:31:16 AM , Rating: 2
You'll have to back that up with a link. GE, Vestas, Clipper, Siemens, Goldwind, all use steel towers.

By drank12quartsstrohsbeer on 8/13/2008 12:13:51 PM , Rating: 2
How much greenhouse gasses are created from making the fiberglass and (more importantly) the resins used in making these machines?

RE: Dilute sources of energy
By conflictxinside on 8/13/2008 2:20:12 PM , Rating: 2
There's a company installing a ton of them in my area of Pennsylvania, and all of them I've seen are fiberglass as well. The units that are currently up and running are virtually silent.

The only problem I can find with them is that I constantly get stuck behind one of the trailers that haul them up the many hills without passing lanes on my way home from work every day. :)

RE: Dilute sources of energy
By masher2 on 8/13/2008 2:35:53 PM , Rating: 2
They may look like fiberglass, but they're probably coated steel tubes. I've never seen a fiberglass tower on a commercial wind turbine. Here's a list of every windfarm currently in operation in Pennsylvania. All are from manufacturers who use steel tube towers:

According to a recent study, wind power uses 5 times the concrete and 10 times the steel per MW-hour generated as does nuclear power. This is the primary reason wind power has both a greater cost and larger environmental footprint.

RE: Dilute sources of energy
By Motamid on 8/13/2008 9:21:55 PM , Rating: 2
I would be interested in seeing the details of that study. Wind I agree is definitely more costly per MW-hour than nuclear when it comes to price. However I don't think that building requirements alone accurately reflect the environmental footprint they leave. A nuclear plant requires a constant intake of uranium to operate.

Taking this into consideration the environmental cost of nuclear power also includes that from the mining, refining, transportation, recycling, and later storage of the nuclear material. Particularly the mining of uranium and storage of the nuclear waste seem to have a rather large environmental footprint for it to be overlooked.

Nuclear is efficient, cheap, and relatively friendly to the environment, but it isn't a miracle cure. I'm all for expanding nuclear to be a major source of our electrical generation, however it shouldn't be the only clean source of energy that we pursue.

RE: Dilute sources of energy
By EricMartello on 8/14/2008 12:06:49 AM , Rating: 2
Nuclear power is probably the best overall choice, but it does have one major issue - water requirements. One plant requires huge amounts of water on a daily basis for normal operation, and once the water is cycled thru the plant, it becomes contaminated with radiation.

RE: Dilute sources of energy
By TomZ on 8/14/2008 8:03:03 AM , Rating: 2
once the water is cycled thru the plant, it becomes contaminated with radiation.

Uh, no - it doesn't get contaminated with radiation - it just gets hot, that's all.

And while you're right that it does require a lot of water, it doesn't really require that much more than a fossil fuel plan of similar output.

RE: Dilute sources of energy
By monkeyman1140 on 8/18/2008 10:12:26 AM , Rating: 2
One thing that is never discussed in the nuclear power generation debate is an obvious one. There is a limited amount of uranium in the earth's crust, and its getting harder to find all the time. The amount of processing required to turn ore into fuel is costly, and spent fuel cannot be used again cheaply. Reprocessing it generates even more radioactive waste. Right now there are hundreds of storage facilities all over the planet holding spent fuel. If the water pool ever drains in one of the facilities then an ecological disaster would result.

RE: Dilute sources of energy
By TomZ on 8/13/2008 11:56:35 AM , Rating: 2
I'm sure the 10% figure is wrong.

But the other issue that is a problem with wind power is the cost per kilowatt, which is probably 3-5X the cost of, e.g., nuclear power. Am I the only one in this country that realizes that we don't just need more power, but we also need cheap power? After all, cheap power is an important part of keeping our economy strong and the resultant high standard of living that we enjoy.

Or maybe we should give that all away and be green instead?!?

RE: Dilute sources of energy
By R0B0Ninja on 8/13/2008 1:55:12 PM , Rating: 2
Comparing one windmill to a nuclear power plant is stupid.
I mean come on.

As far as we should be concerned, this is a great advance in windmill technology which will hopefully help in spreading them.

RE: Dilute sources of energy
By masher2 on 8/13/2008 2:38:37 PM , Rating: 2
He didn't compare the cost of "one windmill"; he compared the costs of generating a fixed amount of energy with wind vs. nuclear.

Modern society depends on access to cheap, plentiful energy. Right now, even in the most ideal locations, wind is still more expensive than nuclear..and that's without factoring in the energy storage needed for when the wind stops blowing.

RE: Dilute sources of energy
By TomZ on 8/13/2008 4:39:47 PM , Rating: 2
As far as we should be concerned, this is a great advance in windmill technology which will hopefully help in spreading them.

Way to miss the big picture. You are basically advocating technology for its own sake without understanding the impact to society and individuals. And the strategy of "green at any cost" is very short-sighted.

By FITCamaro on 8/12/2008 5:04:56 PM , Rating: 1
Deaf birds might fly into them!

I kid...I kid....

RE: But....
By HaZaRd2K6 on 8/12/2008 5:20:02 PM , Rating: 5
Deaf birds would fly into the old ones, too. (The old ones were louder than these.)

The problem now is that non-deaf birds will fly into them.

RE: But....
By Spuke on 8/12/2008 5:38:49 PM , Rating: 2
There's two in my neighborhood and they don't seem all that loud to me.

RE: But....
By 67STANG on 8/12/2008 5:43:46 PM , Rating: 3
That's because "newer" turbines aren't loud at all, despite what turbine haters say...

What about blind birds? Perhaps they should install worthless noise-machines on turbines like they are on hybrids...

RE: But....
By BladeVenom on 8/12/2008 7:07:49 PM , Rating: 2
They are also new. How loud will they be after they've been running for several years?

RE: But....
By 67STANG on 8/12/2008 11:13:16 PM , Rating: 2
A lot of turbine noise has to do with blade design and if the turbine is capable of automatically adjusting for optimum pitch and yaw. Newer generation turbines do this cutting noise.

The other "noise maker" is the generator gearset, which also is quieter in newer turbines. Obviously any gear is going to get noisier with time, however gearsets are a normal wear item in turbines, and thus, are switched out on a scheduled basis-- usually before they start to make a lot of noise.

RE: But....
By rudolphna on 8/13/2008 8:04:58 PM , Rating: 2
the problem will come around after several years, when the gears and bearings are worn out. Think of how much transmission fluid it must take to change the fluid in a 1000 tower farm/ wooo. It always makes me wonder, how the bearings in power plant steam turbines last so long. Good maintnence i guess.

RE: But....
By DangerIsGo on 8/12/2008 9:00:54 PM , Rating: 2
What about blind birds?

Natural Selection, my friend.

RE: But....
By FaceMaster on 8/13/08, Rating: 0
RE: But....
By Chocobollz on 8/13/2008 1:39:49 PM , Rating: 2

Blind birds? Well.. I have a "bird", and my "bird" had always been able to find the "hole", never fail, not even once, even if it's fail, it prolly enter the wrong "hole" but it's still a "hole" anyway :p.


By porkpie on 8/12/2008 5:44:10 PM , Rating: 3
But you've been telling us for months that wind power doesn't create any noise pollution? Now suddenly all those all turbines are distractingly noisy?

RE: Huh?
By Spuke on 8/12/2008 7:07:29 PM , Rating: 2
Now suddenly all those all turbines are distractingly noisy?
You are right!!! I guess he doesn't keep track of what he says.

RE: Huh?
By KaiserCSS on 8/12/2008 7:50:43 PM , Rating: 3
Jason Mick: Journalist Extraordinaire.

Free energy
By Aloonatic on 8/13/2008 3:15:37 AM , Rating: 2
So with wind turbines popping up all over the globe taking (free?) energy out of the air, how long will it be until someone claims that they are affecting weather patterns?

Clouds not getting blown as far inland as they used to be, warmer ground temperatures as the cooling effect of the wind is reduced...

I'm all for them, by the way. They are one of the viable options for alternative energy in the UK as we are (apparently) a very windy country.

RE: Free energy
By wordsworm on 8/13/2008 9:14:59 AM , Rating: 2
Just kill all the butterflies, and that'll save the world from tornadoes.

RE: Free energy
By rudolphna on 8/13/2008 8:06:35 PM , Rating: 2

By monkeyman1140 on 8/18/2008 10:08:02 AM , Rating: 2
I honestly can't think of anything visually uglier than a nuclear power plant. If given a choice between having to live next to a windmill farm or a nuclear power plant, I wouldn't waste too much time deciding.

Wind Turbines at sea
By Avitar on 8/18/2008 12:19:55 PM , Rating: 2
The chief difficulty with wind power, other than the fact there are several better methods, is that you have to go to where the wind is. The regions where wind is western Dakotas, both North and South, eastern Montana, same region, a very long ways from where the power is needed. West Texas only virtue is that east Texas needs power. By that reasoning, the prime place for wind power is in the ocean off New England.

First, the best winds in the nation are the ones south of Block Island curving around to the East of New England. Second because the region quit building power plants before anywhere else more of the power comes from coal fired power plant in the mid-west via transmission line routed up through Canada and then into New England via Vermont. They loose enough power coming a thousand miles to make wind power right off the coast an economic proposition right now.

To Nancy Pelosi’s drill bill add permits for ten thousand wind turbines to built right off New England’s coast without further regulatory review.

Who could argue with that? Of course, five nuclear plants would do the same job and be more reliable.

By ThePooBurner on 8/13/2008 11:59:19 AM , Rating: 1
Pointless technology, for problem that doesn't need fixing, for pointless "green" tech for energy, that really isn't friendly to make and is totally dumb and a waste of land, is a pointless waste of time, energy, resources, brain power, and everything else. Just let us build out nuke plants and stop with all this retarded green tech crap. Hippies are ruining the planet.

"Google fired a shot heard 'round the world, and now a second American company has answered the call to defend the rights of the Chinese people." -- Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.)
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