A new wind turbine blade design that researchers at Sandia National Laboratories developed in partnership with Knight & Carver (K&C) of San Diego promises to be more efficient than current designs. It should significantly reduce the cost-of-energy (COE) of wind turbines at low-wind-speed sites.
Named "STAR" for Sweep Twist Adaptive Rotor, the blade is the first of its kind produced at a utility-grade size. Its most distinctive characteristic is a gently curved tip, termed "sweep," which unlike the vast majority of blades in current use, is specially designed for low-wind-speed regions like the Midwest. The sites targeted by this effort have annual average wind speeds of 5.8 meters per second, measured at 10-meter height. Such sites are abundant in the U.S. and would increase by 20-fold the available land area that can be economically developed for wind energy.
Proof load testing on the new blade using 55-gallon drums to test blade strength is shown above.
Sized at 27.1 meters - almost three meters longer than the baseline it will replace - the blade improves energy capture at lower wind speeds. Instead of the traditional linear shape, the blade features a curvature toward the trailing edge, which allows the blade to respond to turbulent gusts in a manner that lowers fatigue loads on the blade. It is made of fiberglass and epoxy resin.
"This design allows the blade to twist more than traditional designs, thus relieving some of the effects of gusty turbulent wind on blade life," says Tom Ashwill, who leads Sandia's blade research efforts. "This then allows us to grow the blade length for the same rotor, providing for increased energy capture of 5-10 percent and yet retaining the same expected fatigue life."