Wind farms can produce more energy by making individual turbines less efficient

In a recent study published in the journal Nature Energy, a group of researchers from MIT explained how they figured out how to increase the energy output from a wind farm by decreasing the efficiency of each individual wind turbine. According to the study, a wind farm can increase production by 5-32% simply by mis-aligning the fan blades on each different wind turbine. As The Boston Globe summarized the findings:

After testing complicated computer models, they've shown that adjusting the rotor blades of turbines at a wind farm — a change that would reduce the efficiency of an individual turbine if it stood alone — can significantly increase the overall power produced by the wind farm.


Now scientists have found that, actually, they would be better off orienting the blades of some turbines at a sub-optimal angle to the wind, so each turbine generates slightly less bumpy air, known as a turbulent wake, for turbines downwind. Changing the angle of the blades reduces how much a turbine disturbs the flow of air to those behind it, ultimately increasing their collective output.

In other words: it's better to look for collective solutions to energy than to focus on individual energy generators.

MIT scientists say they have found a way to increase the energy output of wind farms [David Abel / The Boston Globe]

Collective wind farm operation based on a predictive model increases utility-scale energy production [Michael F. Howland, Jesús Bas Quesada, Juan José Pena Martínez, Felipe Palou Larrañaga, Neeraj Yadav, Jasvipul S. Chawla, Varun Sivaram & John O. Dabiri / Nature Energy]

Image: Z22 / Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA 3.0)