Wind Power continues to innovate

A new method to test the durability of wind turbines and assist in predicting their lifespan has been developed by engineers from the University of Sheffield. Wengu Chen a Mechanical Engineering research student developed the technique using ultrasonic waves to determine the amount of load put onto the ball bearings within the turbine’s mechanical systems. This in turn records the stress placed on the turbine and the engineers can calculate its remaining life span.

Elastic deformation leads to the thickness of each ball bearing reducing when it is subject to a load and the adjusted stress level affects the speed of sound. These then affect the time it takes for an ultrasound wave to pass through the ball bearing.

The technique uses a custom made sensor attached inside the bearing to measure the ultrasound and establish the load. It is quite small and reasonably inexpensive making it suitable for all turbines including the smaller ones.

The findings from the new method were published in the “Proceedings of the Royal Society A.”  Director of the Leonardo Centre for Tribology at the University of Sheffield and the paper’s co-author Professor Rob Dwyer-Joyce said “This technique can be used to prevent unexpected bearing failures, which are a common problem in wind turbines. By removing the risk of a loss of production and the need for unplanned maintenance, it can help to reduce the cost of wind energy and make it much more economically competitive.”

The method has been lab tested and validated and is currently being field tested at the Barnesmore wind farm in Donegal. If successful it is expected that the technology and method will be rolled out to all new wind turbines in the near future.

The result of having this new information is that it will be easier to predict the life span and service needs of turbines much more accurately and less expensively than before both contributing to the decreasing of the overall cost of energy generation via wind turbines.

Also in the news this week was the announcement that twenty professionals from both academic and business backgrounds have urged Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to snub new UK government policy abandoning plans for zero-carbon homes which would help drastically reduce waste and pollution.

Chancellor George Osborne announced last month that the government was altering previous policy that all new homes built from 2016 onwards would have to meet zero-carbon targets. He claimed this was to reduce regulation facing builders however the outcome is likely to be new homes with reduced insulation and higher amounts of energy wasted. The announcement prompted an outcry from UK businesses who argued that the dropping of the commitment would prevent new investment and be “harmful to British industry.”

In the open letter to the First Minister the twenty academics and business men urge her to opt out of the Chancellor’s plan. “Work with us to develop new policies to ensure the wide-ranging impacts of the disastrous decisions now being made at Westminster will not be felt by the people of Scotland,” the letter says.

“Improving the condition and energy efficiency of the Scottish housing stock will be essential in meeting many of our environmental, social and economic objectives towards 2030 and 2050. Removing the current targets, or letting them slip further, will add to our legacy of sub-standard housing that is not fit for a world in which all homes will need to be zero-carbon homes.”

Dr Keith Baker, an engineering and environment researcher at Glasgow Caledonian University who helped found the Initiative for Carbon Accounting, an independent organisation that aims to improve assessments of climate pollution co-ordinated the letter “George Osborne’s attacks on zero-carbon homes and renewable energy have ripped the heart out of Westminster’s progress on meeting its emissions reduction targets. They have signalled to investors in low carbon homes and renewables that the future of these industries under his regime is uncertain.

“Homes will go un-insulated, research and innovation will be hit hard, and skilled jobs will be lost. We cannot allow this to go unchallenged and so are calling upon the Scottish government and the SNP to call the Chancellor to account.”

Signatories to the letter include Neil Sutherland, managing director of the green-home builder MAKAR: Chris Stewart, chairman of the Scottish Ecological Design Association: Ron Mould, from Glasgow Caledonian University: Professor Sue Roaf from Heriot-Watt University; Julio Bros-Williamson, from the Scottish Energy Centre at Edinburgh Napier University; and David Aitken from Lochlie Construction Group.

Norman Kerr, the director of Energy Action Scotland and letter signatory, highlighted that there are 940,000 households living in, or at risk of, fuel poverty in Scotland. “They need warm, dry affordable-to-heat homes, to maintain health, to play a role in tackling climate change, to contribute to the nation’s security of supply, reduce social inequality and improve their day to day lives,” he said.

“The First Minister should reject the Chancellor’s plans. She should bring forward the eradication of fuel poverty and move on climate change against targets they have failed to meet.”

Marco Biagi, a local government minister stated that the Scottish Government introduced “more demanding” energy standards that will come into force in October this year. “We remain committed to all new buildings being nearly zero-energy from 2019.”

“Future reviews will investigate if further reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, advocated in the 2013 Sullivan Report Update, will deliver new buildings which meet the EU Directive and the potential to deliver a net-zero carbon standard for new development.”

There is need for new houses throughout the UK and with the overall housing market on the rise the opportunity for house builders to design and build zero carbon houses is right here, right now. However despite the majority of house builders being in favour of the policy to build all houses to zero-carbon spec by 2016 this has been removed by the government.

ILI Renewable Energy we believe in good ideas and strong policy designed to make our environment cleaner and safer. Zero-carbon homes are a positive step in achieving this. Our hope is that house builders that had already pledged towards building zero-carbons homes continue to do so despite the change in government policy.

 

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