Scientists have concluded that the larger the wind turbine, the greener the electricity it can produce. Their report appears in the Environmental Science & Technology journal and could solidify the trend toward larger wind turbine construction.
Researchers point out that wind power is an increasingly popular source of electricity. It accounts for approximately 2% of global electricity worldwide, a figure expected to approach 10% by 2020. The size of the turbines is also increasing.
Data shows that the average size of commercial turbines has grown 10-fold in the last 30 years, from diameters of 50 feet in 1980 to nearly 500 feet today. What’s next? Super-giant turbines approaching 1,000 feet in diameter.
Larger turbines make wind energy more environmentally friendly for two main reasons. Manufacturers now have the knowledge, experience, and technology to build big wind turbines with great efficiency.
Secondly, advanced materials and designs permit the efficient construction of large turbine blades that harness more wind without proportional increases in their mass or the masses of the tower and the nacelle that houses the generator.
The result is more clean power without substantial increases in the amount of material needed for construction or fuel required for transportation. What remains to be seen is if owners are willing to swallow a bigger initial investment and a visually larger commitment to renewable energy.