Sandia's Segmented Ultralight Morphing Rotor for 50 MW Turbines
Scientists at Sandia National Laboratories are working on a 100m long, segmented ultralight morphing rotor (SUMR), funded by the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy program, that could some day be used to drive 50 MW offshore wind turbines. Such turbines would be more than six times the power output of the largest turbines in use today, and would utilize load alignment techniques to dramatically reduce peak stresses and fatigue on the rotor blades. SUMR’s load-alignment is ‘bio-inspired’ by the way palm trees move in storms. The turbines would be oriented such that the blades are downwind of the tower (opposite of a conventional turbine), and the blades are segmented and able to align themselves with the wind through a trunnion hinge near the hub. In dangerously high winds, the blades would be stowed to prevent damage, allowing the turbines to operate safely in offshore environments subject to winds that can reach as high as 200 mph.
Significant barriers remain before designers can scale current models up to a 50MW turbine, and Sandia has not yet addressed the installation challenges such as turbine might represent, but the technology shows promise for driving down the cost of offshore wind installations.