Beefing up a Wind Turbine with Compressed Air

by Emil Morhardt

If your wind turbine isn’t going fast enough to meet the demands of the grid, blow on it a little harder: that’s the general idea suggested by Sun et al. (2014) [Shouldn’t somebody named Sun be studying solar rather than wind power?] The concept is a little like a hybrid electric vehicle; if the internal combustion engine isn’t going fast enough, give it a little boost from the electric motor connected to it. Except in this case, it’s that if the wind turbine isn’t going fast enough, goose it with a little compressed air. You might be envisioning a compressed air nozzle pointed at the turbine blades, but there’s a better way: use a motor driven by compressed air to speed up the turbine. One novel aspect to this study is that the device envisioned as a compressed-air motor is something called a scroll expander, or scroll-type air motor, a new type of pneumatic drive, but that doesn’t seem to be central to the idea—any suitable air-driven motor should work. The main point is to have it integrated with the wind turbine so that when needed, it can help out in the short term. Continue reading