Innovation That Matters

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Could a nature-inspired retrofit boost wind energy?

Agriculture & Energy

Inspiration for the design came from the wingspan of the Andean Condor

Spotted: From shark skin to animal-like robots, nature’s designs serve as inspiration for innovators in almost every field. In Canada, industrial design company Biome Renewables uses the Andean Condor’s ability to soar for hundreds of miles without flapping its wings as the basis for a new product that increases wind turbine power. The finding could help to boost the efficiency and volume of power generated by renewable energy sources – an increasingly urgent need as global energy demand rises.

Objects that move through the air, like wind turbine blades and aeroplanes, generate vortices of air that move in the opposite direction of the object, ultimately slowing it down and reducing its efficiency. Winglets, which are tiny wings like those found at the tip of aeroplane wings to reduce drag, reduce the creation and effects of vortices at the tips of the blade. These can be retrofitted to wind turbines that are already in use, creating an opportunity to substantially increase overall power outputs.

Biome Renewables calls its winglet design work ‘Project Condor’ and research has found that the winglets increase power output by an average of 10 per cent. The winglets attach to the tip of a turbine’s blade and, based on the condor’s wing design, help lower drag on the rotating blades, thereby reducing the amount of power lost during operation.

Not yet commercially available, the team behind the winglet continues its research and development of the design with a particular focus on more turbulent conditions and turbines of higher power outputs.

Other innovations in Springwise’s library seeking to improve the effectiveness of wind power include small turbines for microgrids and a new, lower-profile machine design.

Written By: Keely Khoury




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