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Wasted Wind

A Los Alamos simulation shows why turbulent airflows are causing power losses and turbine failures in America’s wind farms—and what to do about it
April 1, 2014
Wasted Wind

This aerial photo of Denmark’s Horns Rev 1 offshore wind farm was captured just as weather conditions created fog in the wake of each wind turbine. The more turbulent downstream air can cause power losses and mechanical problems for turbines behind the front row. CREDIT: Christian Steiness/Vattenfall

Modern wind turbines have a design life of 20 years and yet break down 2–3 times in the first 10 years

The bigger the wind turbine, the more wind power it generates—so it’s little surprise that they have gotten big. The largest in operation today stands one-and-a-half football fields tall at the hub and spins with a diameter as wide as two 747 jumbo jets, wingtip to wingtip. But with their great size comes equally great, unwanted side effects: great downstream turbulence, great sensitivity to it, and great expense to repair. New Los Alamos research indicates how to design and operate wind farms to maximize output while minimizing the likelihood of damage.

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