Construction, Test and further Development of Intelligent Rotor Blades
Germany has set itself the goal of eliminating nuclear power until the beginning of the 2020s. To be able to compensate for the amount of power currently coming from nuclear power plants, while remaining clean, independent and still capable of providing the population with the energy it needs, different types of technologies must be explored and further developed. To achieve this goal the country has decided to award a large amount of investments to the research and development of renewable energies and specially to wind power technologies. The main motivation for investing on the research of wind power plants lies on the fact that different and larger rotors will be necessary to satisfy future energy demands. These rotors will need to be designed with an approach distinct to currently used ones, since contemporary technologies would simply not be able to satisfy the design requirements.
Within the frame of the Smart Blades project three technologies for enabling the design and building of larger rotor blades capable of adapting themselves to variable wind conditions; of standing gust loads in diverse environments; and at the same time, capable of generating more power, while remaining light enough to be feasible, transportable and mountable, were studied. The project studied and proved the potential of using the different technologies for achieving this goal: first, blades that can couple bending and torsion, or twist, for passive morphing; and, second and third, using adaptive trailing edge flaps and leading edge slats, respectively, to influence the aerodynamic behavior of the blades, functioning in a similar way to aircraft high-lift systems.
The success of Smart Blades showed the potential of the developed technologies, increasing the interest from the industry and leading to the follow-up project: SmartBlades2. Within this project the Research Alliance Wind Energy and a consortium of industry partners are currently using their expertise to test and implement the developed concepts in a new generation of wind rotor blades.
SmartBlades2 had its kick off on September 2016. It is a project financed by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy from Germany and accounts with a budget of 15.4 Million Euros. More than 50 researchers and collaborators are involved in the project, covering areas ranging from structural design up to production, from the study of aerodynamic loads up to operating controllers and testing. The scientists are further developing the three technologies from Smart Blades, with the goal of building and testing the concepts in a real wind turbine in order to achieve a higher technology readiness level for the blades; thus facilitating their introduction in the industry.