When the wind blows

wind farm

Research into the best ways to arrange wind turbines has produced staggering results—quite literally. The University of Delaware’s Cristina Archer and her Atmosphere and Energy Research Group found that staggering and spacing out turbines in an offshore wind farm can improve performance by as much as 33 percent.

“Staggering every other row was amazingly efficient,” said Archer, associate professor of physical ocean science and engineering and geography in UD’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment. The findings, which appeared last month in Geophysical Research Letters, could help engineers plan improved offshore wind farms.

The researchers used an existing offshore wind farm near Sweden as the basis for their study, comparing the existing tightly packed, grid-like layout to six alternative configurations. In some, they kept the turbines in neat rows but spaced them farther apart. In others, they shifted the alignment of every other row, similar to how rows of theatre seats are staggered to improve the views of people further back.

In computer-intensive simulations that each took weeks to run, the team took into account the eddies, or swirls of choppy air, that wind turbines create downwind as their blades spin—and how that air movement would impact surrounding turbines. They found that the most efficient arrangement was a combination of two approaches. By both spacing the turbines farther apart and staggering the rows, the improved layout would decrease losses caused by eddies and improve overall performance by a third. Via When the wind blows

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