Super-Sized Wind Turbines for Greener Electricity

Source: Buildings • Posted: Thursday, June 21, 2012

Turbines are becoming increasingly larger as technology develops.


Scientists have concluded that the larger the wind turbine, the greener the electricity it produces. Their report appears in ACS’ journal Environmental Science & Technology. This study could solidify the trend toward construction of larger wind turbines.

Marloes Caduff and colleagues point out that wind power is an increasingly popular source of electricity. It accounts for approximately 2% of global electricity worldwide, a figure expected to approach 10% by 2020. The size of the turbines is also increasing.

One study shows that the average size of commercial turbines has grown 10-fold in the last 30 years, from diameters of 50 feet in 1980 to nearly 500 feet today. What’s next? Super-giant turbines approaching 1,000 feet in diameter. The authors wanted to determine whether building larger turbines makes wind energy more or less environmentally friendly.

Their study showed that bigger turbines do produce greener electricity due to two main reasons. First, manufacturers now have the knowledge, experience, and technology to build big wind turbines with great efficiency. Second, advanced materials and designs permit the efficient construction of large turbine blades that harness more wind without proportional increases in their mass or the masses of the tower and the nacelle that houses the generator. What that means is more clean power without large increases in the amount of material needed for construction or fuel needed for transportation.