August 8, 2011The wind farms of the future might look different from the ones popping up all over western and northern Iowa. Wind energy is already making more than 14% of the state's energy needs, but the big wind farms like the one just west of Des Moines around Adair (called the Rolling Hills Wind Project) use big turbines on 263' towers. The BBC is reporting on a scientific study that says we might be able to get more energy per acre by strategically clustering vertical-axis wind turbines that would operate with less turbulence than the conventional turbines we've come to recognize.
Ever wondered how fast those blades are turning? Based on the "turbine facts" handout from MidAmerican Energy, the individual blades are 161' long from center to tip, and turn at a maximum rate of 16 revolutions per minute. Hearkening back to high-school geometry, a radius of 161' creates a circle with a circumference of 1011.6'. If the tip of the blade goes through sixteen revolutions of that circumference per minute, it travels 16,185 feet per minute, or 971,128 feet per hour, which converts to 184 miles per hour. Something to think about when you see the blades turning in a gentle breeze -- they're actually moving very fast.
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