General Electric is testing a full-scale prototype of its new design wind turbine that is touted as a solution to several of the key challenges of wind power generation - efficiency of power generation and storage for when the wind isn't blowing. The new turbines can generate more electricity than prior models for the same wind speed, can store excess energy for use at a later time, and can control operations via a smart power management system based on current wind conditions, turbine performance, and electrical grid needs.
The most obvious change from previous designs is the large noselike structure at the center of the rotors. This structure deflects the wind from the hub to the blade tips where it has much more ability to turn the rotors. In addition, by attaching the same size blades to the perimeter of the nose, the turbine can capture a wider swath of wind. A new lattice-type frame structure allows for a taller turbine with the same amount of steel as a traditional tubular suport. A battery storage system allows for more even power output by storing excess electricity when the wind blows harder than planned and outputing that electricity when the wind blows less. And, finally, an integrated system of real-time sensors and analytical software helps the turbine operators to monitor performance of individual turbines and how each turbine integrates with the entire wind farm and the electrical grid.
Each improvement on its own is an important step forward in wind power technology; together, they represent a significant technological advancement.