Dinosaur-Inspired Designs Make Wind Turbines More Aerodynamic

EvaK via Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

In the grand scheme of things, we're still in the early stages of wind power generation, but even so, there are still many, many wind turbines already installed and generating power. When new technological advances come along like new turbine designs or tweaks to the blades or motors that can increase power generation, replacing entire wind turbines would be very costly. Because of that, Siemens has developed a set of wind turbine blade attachments that increase power generation without having to fully replace any part of the turbine.

The coolest part of these add-ons? They're inspired by dinosaurs.

Great Plains Energy Corridor/via

The first of these attachments are called DinoTails. These resemble the back plates of a stegosaurus. When applied to a wind turbine blade, they increase the overall area of the blade to add lift. The serrated edges help break up air flow around the blades, which decreases turbulence and makes the the turbines quieter while reducing the strain on the blades.

The second attachments are DinoShells. These are shaped like a snow shovel (or the curve of a dinosaur egg) and extend the shape of the turbine blade all the way to the main shaft. Siemens says this extension makes the turbine more efficient.

The third attachment is a vortex generator -- no cutesy name -- that features small fins that force air to stay in contact with the top of the blade for longer. This increases lift, which in turn increases power generation.

Siemens says when these three attachments are added, a wind turbine's power output is increased by 1.5 percent. This may seem like a tiny number, but when you outfit an entire wind farm with these, 1.5 percent is actually nothing to laugh at. New Scientist reports, "the Altamont Pass Wind Farm in California - one of the world's biggest - produces 125 megawatts on average. A 1.5 per cent increase there would meet the energy needs of an extra 2500 households."

Siemens is installing the attachments at the Bison 2 and 3 Wind Energy Centers in North Dakota, which should boost capacity by 3.15 megawatt.

Tags: Biomimicry | Technology | Wind Power