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Green Building News

Research May Lead to Quieter Wind Turbines

R&D teams hope to develop turbine blades that make less noise and produce more power

Supercomputing to a quieter future. Researchers are using computer simulation programs to produce better wind turbine blades. These graphics, showing "isosurfaces of vorticity," help researchers visualize the flow of air around a blade.
Image Credit: GE

GE Global Research says it’s putting supercomputers to work in developing improved designs for wind turbine blades.

The company, which is the technology development arm of the General Electric Co., is working with Sandia National Laboratories and its supercomputer in an effort to make better noise predictions for blades and to improve their performance.

GE has announced that it expects new blades to be quieter by 1 decibel and to increase power output by 2% annually. “With approximately 240 [gigawatts] of new wind installations forecast globally over the next five years, a 2% increase would create 5 GW of additional wind power capacity,” the company announed. “That’s enough to power every household in New York City, Boston and Los Angeles, combined.”

Simulation software was developed at Stanford

The tests rely on Sandia’s Red Mesa/Red Sky computer, rated in 2010 as the tenth fastest in the world, and “Large Eddy Simulation” code developed at Stanford University.

Researchers ran the simulation for three months. GE said the simulations set the stage for improved turbine blades, but didn’t say when new products might be expected in the marketplace.

As the number of utility-scale wind farms continues to increase, turbine noise is the subject of more complaints. Earlier this month, an Oregon man filed a $5 million lawsuit against the operator of a 50-turbine wind farm, claiming low frequency noise caused a variety of health problems.

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