Historical Development

Windmills have been used for at least 3000 years, mainly for grinding grain or pumping water, while in sailing ships the wind has been an essential source of power for even longer. From as early as the thirteenth century, horizontal-axis windmills were an integral part of the rural economy and only fell into disuse with the advent of cheap fossil-fuelled engines and then the spread of rural electrification. The use of windmills (or wind turbines) to generate electricity can be traced back to the late nineteenth century with the 12 kW DC windmill generator constructed by Brush in the USA and the research undertaken by LaCour in Denmark. However, for much of the twentieth century there was little interest in using wind energy other than for battery charging for remote dwellings and these low-power systems were quickly replaced once access to the electricity grid became available. One notable exception was the 1250 kW Smith-Putnam wind turbine constructed in the USA in 1941. This remarkable machine had a steel rotor 53 m in diameter, full-span pitch control and flapping blades to reduce loads. Although a blade spar failed catastrophically in 1945, it remained the largest wind turbine constructed for some 40 years (Putnam, 1948).

Golding (1955) and Shepherd and Divone in Spera (1994) provide a fascinating history of early wind turbine development. They record the 100 kW 30 m diameter Balaclava wind turbine in the then USSR in 1931 and the Andrea Enfield 100 kW 24 m diameter pneumatic design constructed in the UK in the early 1950s. In this turbine hollow blades, open at the tip, were used to draw air up through the tower where another turbine drove the generator. In Denmark the 200 kW 24 m diameter Gedser machine was built in 1956 while Electricite de France tested a 1.1 MW 35 m diameter turbine in 1963. In Germany, Professor Hutter constructed a number of innovative, lightweight turbines in the 1950s and 1960s. In spite of these technical advances and the enthusiasm, among others, of Golding at the Electrical Research Association in the UK there was little sustained interest in wind generation until the price of oil rose dramatically in 1973.

The sudden increase in the price of oil stimulated a number of substantial Government-funded programmes of research, development and demonstration. In the USA this led to the construction of a series of prototype turbines starting with the 38 m diameter 100 kW Mod-0 in 1975 and culminating in the 97.5 m diameter 2.5 MW Mod-5B in 1987. Similar programmes were pursued in the UK, Germany and Sweden. There was considerable uncertainty as to which architecture might prove most cost-effective and several innovative concepts were investigated at full scale. In Canada, a 4 MW vertical-axis Darrieus wind turbine was constructed and this concept was also investigated in the 34 m diameter Sandia Vertical Axis Test Facility in the USA. In the UK, an alternative vertical-axis design using straight blades to give an 'H' type rotor was proposed by Dr Peter Musgrove and a 500 kW prototype constructed. In 1981 an innovative horizontal-axis 3 MW wind turbine was built and tested in the USA. This used hydraulic transmission and, as an alternative to a yaw drive, the entire structure was orientated into the wind. The best choice for the number of blades remained unclear for some while and large turbines were constructed with one, two or three blades.

Much important scientific and engineering information was gained from these Government-funded research programmes and the prototypes generally worked as designed. However, it has to be recognized that the problems of operating very large wind turbines, unmanned and in difficult wind climates were often under-

Figure 1.1 1.5 MW, 64 m diameter Wind Turbine (Reproduced by permission of NEG MICON, www.neg-micon.dk)

estimated and the reliability of the prototypes was not good. At the same time as the multi-megawatt prototypes were being constructed private companies, often with considerable state support, were constructing much smaller, often simpler, turbines for commercial sale. In particular the financial support mechanisms in California in the mid-1980s resulted in the installation of a very large number of quite small (< 100 kW) wind turbines. A number of these designs also suffered from various problems but, being smaller, they were in general easier to repair and modify. The so-called 'Danish' wind turbine concept emerged of a three-bladed, stall-regulated rotor and a fixed-speed, induction machine drive train. This deceptively simple architecture has proved to be remarkably successful and has now been implemented on turbines as large as 60 m in diameter and at ratings of 1.5 MW. The machines of Figures 1.1 and 1.2 are examples of this design. However, as the sizes of commercially available turbines now approach that of the large prototypes of the 1980s it is interesting to see that the concepts investigated then of variable-speed operation, full-span control of the blades, and advanced materials are being used increasingly by designers. Figure 1.3 shows a wind farm of direct-drive, variablespeed wind turbines. In this design, the synchronous generator is coupled directly to the aerodynamic rotor so eliminating the requirement for a gearbox. Figure 1.4 shows a more conventional, variable-speed wind turbine that uses a gearbox, while a small wind farm of pitch-regulated wind turbines, where full-span control of the blades is used to regulate power, is shown in Figure 1.5.

Figure 1.2 750 kW, 48 m diameter Wind Turbine, Denmark (Reproduced by permission of NEG MICON, www.neg-micon.dk)
Figure 1.3 Wind Farm of Variable-Speed Wind Turbines in Complex Terrain (Reproduced by permission of Wind Prospect Ltd., www.windprospect.com)
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Figure 1.4 1 MW Wind Turbine in Northern Ireland (Reproduced by permission of Renewable Energy Systems Ltd., www.res-ltd.com)

The stimulus for the development of wind energy in 1973 was the price of oil and concern over limited fossil-fuel resources. Now, of course, the main driver for use of wind turbines to generate electrical power is the very low CO2 emissions (over the entire life cycle of manufacture, installation, operation and de-commissioning)

Figure 1.5 Wind Farm of Six Pitch-regulated Wind Turbines in Flat Terrain (Reproduced by permission of Wind Prospect Ltd., www.windprospect.com)

and the potential of wind energy to help limit climate change. In 1997 the Commission of the European Union published its White Paper (CEU, 1997) calling for 12 percent of the gross energy demand of the European Union to be contributed from renewables by 2010. Wind energy was identified as having a key role to play in the supply of renewable energy with an increase in installed wind turbine capacity from 2.5 GW in 1995 to 40 GW by 2010. This target is likely to be achievable since at the time of writing, January 2001, there was some 12 GW of installed wind-turbine capacity in Europe, 2.5 GW of which was constructed in 2000 compared with only 300 MW in 1993. The average annual growth rate of the installation of wind turbines in Europe from 1993-9 was approximately 40 percent (Zervos, 2000). The distribution of wind-turbine capacity is interesting with, in 2000, Germany accounting for some 45 percent of the European total, and Denmark and Spain each having approximately 18 percent. There is some 2.5 GW of capacity installed in the USA of which 65 percent is in California although with increasing interest in Texas and some states of the midwest. Many of the California wind farms were originally

Table 1.1 Installed Wind Turbine Capacity Throughout the World, January 2001


Installed capacity

Renewable Energy 101

Renewable Energy 101

Renewable energy is energy that is generated from sunlight, rain, tides, geothermal heat and wind. These sources are naturally and constantly replenished, which is why they are deemed as renewable. The usage of renewable energy sources is very important when considering the sustainability of the existing energy usage of the world. While there is currently an abundance of non-renewable energy sources, such as nuclear fuels, these energy sources are depleting. In addition to being a non-renewable supply, the non-renewable energy sources release emissions into the air, which has an adverse effect on the environment.

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