比帝国大厦还高的风力涡轮机

虽然其他科技的趋势是越变越小,但是风力涡轮机却朝着相反的方向发展,因为要产生更多的能量,就要利用更多的风。随着这个逻辑,研究者们正打算将风力涡轮机提升至一个不可思议的高度,光一片风叶就长达200米。
《洛杉矶时报》报道说,这个新型风力涡轮将直耸云天,高达479米,这比帝国大厦还要高30米。为了使其稳定,整个风车直径将达到400米。这简直是堂吉诃德的现世噩梦。
根据研发团队的介绍,尺寸并非这款涡轮机设计上唯一与众不同之处。其中最大的区别在于新的涡轮机不再是迎风而立。相反,它会朝向下风头,从而可以更轻松的转动。这也完全符合常理——既然你要利用风能,为何要逆着它呢?
200米长的风叶让人有点难以想象,其设计灵感源于棕榈树在风暴中的摇曳方式。叶片被设计成由一段一段小的叶片衔接组装而成,其轻量化的分段躯干相当于一系列的圆柱壳,可使整个叶片在风中弯曲的同时保持每段叶片自身的硬度,从根本上降低了对叶片硬度的要求。在危险飓风来袭时,巨型叶片会收起,与风向一致,减少了损坏的风险。而在风速较低情况下,叶片会展开,使产生的能量最大化。
除了可以全天候采集更多的风能,这种分段的设计,又叫做分段超轻变形转子,使得建造和运输这种巨型风叶更加容易。想象一下,如果要运输一整段长达两个足球场的风叶,画面简直太美。
按照他们的计划,这台风力涡轮机可以产生50兆瓦特的电力,是传统风力涡轮机的25倍。
研发团队目前正在生产超级涡轮机十分之一大小的涡轮机,他们希望可以在2019年由科罗拉多州的国家可再生能源实验室进行测试。在那之后,他们认为还需要15年时间才能做出全尺寸的涡轮机。目前,美国能源部已经给予他们350万美元的项目资金。随着项目推进,这一数字还将不断变大。
虽然这个项目雄心勃勃,而且需要大量的研究,已经有人指出如泰坦巨人般的风力涡轮机有着一个明显的负面影响:它将成为鸟类绞肉机。
如果这一高达479米的风力涡轮机拔地而起,它会对候鸟产生直接威胁,巨型风叶对它们而言无疑是大规模杀伤性武器。为了克服这一缺陷,研发团队希望将它建造在加州海岸线以外,从而会较少伤害迁徙的鸟类。但即便如此,我们仍然难以估计这会真的解决问题,还是会把情况变得更加糟糕。
当人类寻找更清洁的能源时,类似的问题是值得我们深思的。只有时间能告诉我们这种新型风力涡轮机能够给我们带来更加环保的未来,但是无论如何这都是充满挑战和希望的一步。

http://www.sciencealert.com/scientists-are-developing-the-world-s-biggest-wind-turbine-with-200-metre-blades

Scientists are developing the world's biggest wind turbine

30 metres taller than the Empire State Building.

While other technologies are getting smaller and smaller with each passing day, wind turbines are going in the opposite direction, because in order for them to make enough power, they need to harness more wind. Following this logic, researchers are taking turbines to a seemingly impossible scale by giving them blades that are 200 metres (656 feet) long.

As Rob Nikolewski reports for the LA Times, the new turbine will reach 479 metres (1,574 feet) into the sky - a height that's 30 metres (100 feet) taller than the Empire State Building. To keep it stable, the structure would have a diameter of roughly 400 metres (1,312) feet. This is the type of stuff that Don Quixote has nightmares about.

According to the team, the size of the turbine isn’t the only thing that separates their design from past models. One of the biggest differences is that this new turbine wouldn’t face the wind. Instead, it would face downwind to allow easier flow. Which makes total sense - why fight against the energy you’re harvesting?

The 200-metre blades, which are almost too large to conceive of, would have segments that can spread out in light wind and tighten up in strong winds.

Besides collecting more wind at all times, the segmented design, dubbed Segmented Ultralight Morphing Rotors, makes building and transporting the blades way easier than single-framed blades. Imagine trying to transport a blade that's roughly two football fields long - not an easy task.

If everything goes the way they plan, the turbine could generate up to 50 megawatts of electricity - 25 times more energy than a traditional wind turbine.

The team is currently working to produce a 1/10th scale version of their turbine, which they hope to have ready for testing by 2019. After that, they claim it will still take roughly 15 years or so to make a full-scale version. So far, the US Energy Department has given US$3.5 million to the project - a price tag that will be sure to rise as research continues.

Though the project is super-ambitious and will require a lot of research to pull off, some are already pointing out an obvious downside to having such a giant, tall turbine: it’s a bird murdering machine.

If the turbine does reach some 479 metres into the sky, it can pose a direct threat to migratory birds that wouldn’t stand a change if hit by one of the blades. To overcome this, the team hopes to construct their turbine off the coast of California, where it’s less likely to harm our avian friends. However, it remains unclear if that actually solves the problem, or just makes it harder to assess how many birds are affected by it.

Questions like these are vital for us to ponder as we search for better ways to power our society. Only time will tell if the team’s new turbine will push us into a cleaner future, but it’s definitely an ambitious, hopeful step forward.


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