Earlier today there were concerns aired regarding harm to eagles and other birds caused by rotating wind turbine blades. However, a new study in the journal ES&T suggests that bigger wind turbines are “greener” in terms of materials used and the electricity generated. So, if there is an issue with collisions, then perhaps bigger turbines rather than greater numbers might be the answer.
Marloes Caduff and colleagues at ETH Zurich, Switzerland, point out that wind power is an increasingly popular source of electricity, providing about 2% of global electricity production worldwide with that figure anticipated as heading for 10% by 2020. Commercial turbines are now ten times bigger than they were 30 years ago. In 1980 blade diameters were about 15m today they’re often 150m. 300m, super-giant turbines are on the horizon…as it were.
The team has now determined that bigger turbines generate greener electricity for two reasons: first, manufacturers now have the technology to build big wind turbines that are fundamentally more efficient. Second, advanced materials and designs allow these turbines to harness more wind without proportional increases in their mass or the masses of the tower and the nacelle that houses the generator.
Environ. Sci. Technol., 2012, 46 (9), pp 4725–4733 DOI: 10.1021/es204108n