Study of almost 3,000 turbines in Britain sheds doubt on manufacturers claims that they generate clean energy for up to 25 years
Wind farms have just half the useful lifespan which has been claimed, according to new research which found they start to wear out after just 12 years.
Really not good news. Hopefully, solar energy will get more research and production soon. I would love to put in solar panels, but not on Soc. Sec. budget.
NREL performs research in two major branches of solar energy:
Solar Energy Information for Research
As an engineer, I'd be interested in just WHAT is wearing out (bearings, generator windings, other electronics?) and what can be done to improve the design to enhance longevity.
I wouldn't be surprised if it turned out to be a result of subtle resonance. Wind turbine designs are tested in wind tunnels presumably with models. Full scale, all of the possibilities of speed and turbulence will emerge, in concert with dirt, corrosion, algae, birds, etc.
I used to hear hype about wind turbines for the tops of buildings. But it seems they stress structures with vibration.
I'm not overly optimistic about sea current and tidal power generation for similar reasons, on top of the amazing ability of sea life to attach to the smoothest surfaces and seams within a few weeks.
There's a big learning curve for us with Green Energy.
Loren, it may be that opportunity knocks at your door as you recognize problems and possible solutions in alternative energy. Have you any interest in inventing, innovating, engineering design? I really like to read when you guys start discussing your fields of interest.
Joan, if I were a Mech. E., I'd be all over this like white on rice. Fact is, I'm a Double-E (electrical engineer), and I think that one 40+ year old course I took in Mechanics wouldn't be up to the job!
One thing I DO know is that scale modeling is frequently not up to the task of fully simulating the characteristics and liabilities of a full-size piece of equipment, especially as it comes to mechanical stresses. My thought would be to take a suspect wind turbine and fully rig it out with sensors: accelerometers, vibration detectors and strain gauges, to really get a sense of what that overall system is facing in the real world and update or redesign based on that data (which very likely, they are already doing).
I have to confess, my hopes have always been with solar. It's a field where you can conceptualize great technological advances, increases in efficiency of 200, 300, or 400%. (Which would take today's average efficiency of about 18% up nearly to the currently only dreamed of theoretical perfect.) You can also imagine price dropping as we learn to incorporate more organics in the design in place of doping ultra pure (and ultra expensive) silicon wafers with even more expensive and toxic heavy metals. As for wind turbines, sure, you can imagine marginal improvement, and cost reductions as the industry scales, but it's hard to envision a great leap forward.
Our best current technology has an efficiency limit of about 50%, is what I understand. The cutting-edge stuff they put on satellites etc, does indeed push this limit, clocking in in the mid to high 40's. But these are extremely expensive. Most solar cells in consumer products are not even half that good.
However, a perfect solar cell, which is impossible with the kind of technology we are using today, should be able to get up into the mid-80s somewhere. And we know it's possible, because plants do it. Designing this perfect solar cell from scratch would require a much better understanding of quantum mechanics than we currently have. It could possibly be reverse engineered from chloroplasts, but it would take a lot of work and a fair bit of luck.
That's what I learned a few years ago, anyway. Not sure how much of that is still current. But the point isn't that it would be easy, or that it will happen in the next few years. Just that there is a basis for it being possible. Whereas, with wind power, I've never even heard of a basis for that kind of improvement.