The windmill has two blades – unlike a traditional windmill – mounted on the mast away from the wind. The blades bend in strong winds. This means that they can be made of a lighter, more flexible material than blades that must withstand the wind.
Scientists were inspired by nature when creating the design. They saw that palm trees could withstand severe storms because they bend.
The invention responds to hurricanes that will increase in number and strength due to climate change. For example, KNMI calculated that a severe typhoon (Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson scale) occurs in Hong Kong about once every 80 years in the current climate. Due to climate change, this may happen approximately once every 20 years in the near future. Higher seawater temperatures also allow hurricanes to extract more energy from the water. Climate change is causing wind speeds in more severe storms to increase.
The mill design has been tested in practice and preliminary results have shown that the flexible blades continue to spin well in windy conditions. According to a scholarly article, the mill ran “continuously and efficiently,” even in strong winds.
Because the blades are so flexible and lightweight, they can adapt to the amount of wind. According to Mandir Phadnis, the lead author of the article, this reduces the cost of the blades and thus the overall cost of the energy generated.
New operating system
In addition to the flexible blades, the grinder also has a new control system that can better respond to expected wind speeds. One of the biggest challenges facing wind turbines is the variation in wind speeds. If there is too little wind, it will not be able to work properly, and if there is too much wind, it will turn off to prevent overloading the system.
According to the researchers, the combination of this improved control system with lighter, more flexible blades will make it possible to build larger wind turbines in the future that can withstand harsh weather and continue rotating at higher wind speeds.
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