Biomimicry Inspires Quieter Wind Turbines

  1. Issue: Energy
    • Wind turbines typically take up expanses of land far from densely populated areas in large part because of the amount of noise that they create. If the issue of sound could be mitigated, wind farms could move closer to cities where their energy is predominantly being used, thus creating a shorter more efficient line of energy transit.
  2. Summary of Technology:
    • Researchers have identified several characteristics in owl wings that can be reused bio-mimetically to create create wind turbines, airplanes, and even computer fans.
    • As professor Nigel Peake describes, “Much of the noise caused by a wing – whether it’s attached to a bird, a plane or a fan – originates at the trailing edge where the air passing over the wing surface is turbulent. The structure of an owl’s wing serves to reduce noise by smoothing the passage of air as it passes over the wing – scattering the sound so their prey can’t hear them coming.”
    • The biological form of the wings are covered with down that resembles a forest canopy, a flexible comb of bristles on the leading edge, and most importantly, a porous and elastic fringe of feathers at the trailing edge that dampens sound.
    • To implement this complex form on each of the turbine blades, researchers modeled and 3d printed a porous coating which would replicate the effect of the fringe and scatter the sound of the motion.
  3. Stakeholders: energy consumers, energy utilities, businesses, cities, turbine manufacturers.
  4. Because this technology is still in the development phase, research must be completed as to whether this sound mitigating benefit will have any effect on the energy generation of the turbines. If the levels are the same or improve, that could serve as a significant benefit and would be something to continue exploring. Outside of R&D, deployment might take best be executed through a 3d printing manufacturing company which can easily create augmented coatings for the wind turbine blades. These could be distributed to various wind farms, both existing and proposed. Metropolitan policy makers could determine exactly how close wind farms could safely exist near each city and a land-use proposal could be developed to bring turbines within a smaller radius of the energy-hungry cities.

Bloomberg Business

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One thought on “Biomimicry Inspires Quieter Wind Turbines

  1. This is very interesting and leads to thoughts of other potential biomimicry applications in renewable energy production. While the 10 DB reduction is good, perhaps through the research if it can be reduced more.

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