Super-Size Me

“Supersize” wind turbines offer heightened efficiency and output, a Berkeley Lab study finds.

Superconductors, supercables, superstition…most of today’s news is superlative. Why not let super-sized wind turbines join the party? A recent Berkeley Lab study, published in the science journal Wind Engineering, finds that making our wind turbines larger would yield exponential bounds of energy in the U.S.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Alameda, Calif., collaborated with renewables company DNV GL Energy on the project to study “the key challenges associated with manufacturing and deploying next generation, increasingly larger, land-based wind turbine blades” (See the fact sheet here.)

The study includes quantitative analyses exploring the costs and benefits of three potential pathways to enable use of wind turbine blades that are too large to be transported using traditional methods on existing road and rail infrastructure.

These three pathways are: innovative transportation, segmented (hybrid) blades, and on-site manufacturing.

Analysts say the pathways can provide unique, high-value research and development (R&D) the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) could undertake to enable use of “supersized” blades. This project provides supplemental information for use in DOE’s Big Adaptive Rotor project, led by Sandia National Laboratory. The Big Adaptive Rotor project is a detailed study of alternative wind turbine designs and systems.

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