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Wind Turbines: Designs and Costs - Research Paper Example

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Wind Turbines: Designs and Costs

The first electricity generating wind turbines would have to wait until the 1980s (Kjaer). The modern wind energy was born in 1982 when European manufacturers of agricultural machinery managed to install about 25-30 turbines in California. By the following year, 350 turbines had been installed capable of a total capacity of 20 MW (Kjaer). Today, wind energy is the fastest-growing electricity source in the world and production capacity per turbine generator has grown from the 1982 55kw to the 5,000kw (Kjaer). Turbine technology has also enabled wind energy production at varying heights both at higher and at low to medium heights. In addition to harvesting winds at broader heights, the trend of wind turbines has also been marked with increasing sizes. This is due to the fact that larger wind turbines capture more power and is more economical. Modern wind turbines further have more flexible structures to operate in uncertain environments. Improved turbine design requires proper wind inflow characterization. Laks, Pao, and Wright note that rapid change in direction, concentrated wind gusts, or passage of energetic atmospheric structure creates critical loads on individual wind turbines (n.pg). Such extreme events decrease turbine lifetimes; they cause components failure and can threaten catastrophic machine failure. Future designs of turbines are focusing on understanding the complexity of wind inflow into the turbines so as to design load mitigating controls that protect the turbine from such complex atmospheric phenomenon. Wind turbines design and cost of wind energy With the current advances in Science and Engineering, the capacity of wind power is expected to increase as the cost of this power lower due to more efficient designs. The investment in wind power is expected to have grown to $ 60 billion in 2016 from the $ 18 billion in 2006 (Pao and Pao, Kathryn and Johnson). The period from 1980 to 2003 was marked by significant improvement of wind turbines productivity and their capital costs which in turn was associated with reduction in the Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE). Wiser and Bolinger note that the capital cost in the United States fell by approximately 65% from the early 1980s to attain the lowest level at around 2001 to 2004 (qtd. in Lantz, Wiser and Hand 3). Denmark also had a similar trend with a capital cost falling by over 55% within the same period (Nielsen et al, qtd. in Lantz, Wiser, and Hand 3). Within this time period, there was an increase in installed wind power globally from negligible amounts to 40, 000 MW. This was enabled by a technological development where larger blades could be produced at lower costs (Lantz, Wiser, and Hand 4). During this period, the LCOE dropped from $150/MWh to around $50/MWh (Lantz, Wiser, and Hand 14). The capital costs were observed to rise in the period 2004-2009 whereas the turbine performances increase; the result was a moderate increase in the LCOE. The period 2009-2013 has seen the turbine and projects capital costs decrease significantly, and with continual improvements in turbine designs Wiser predicts the industry to attain an apparent historic low in wind LCOE (qtd. in Lantz, Wiser and Hand 15). The future of wind turbines The future turbines are expected to have various improvements in design aimed at reducing cost and increasing power production output. Cohen et al. estimate that turbines with taller towers could increase energy output by 11% (quoted in Lantz, Wiser, and Hand 24). However, increasing tower heights may lead to increased cost but unless new designs are invented. U.S. DOE 2008 says that future designs may ...Show more

Summary

Wind energy has been harvested by man for over two millennia, the earliest use being in sailing, then pumping water and grinding flour. However, it was not until the 1930s when Leroy Ratzlaff and his family built a small wind turbine for harvesting the high winds that blew across the ridge at South Dakota in Hyde County where they lived…
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Wind Turbines: Designs and Costs essay example
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