Wind Turbine Laser System Detects Gusts Before They Arrive

A startup company named 'Catch the Wind' has developed a product that could increase the efficiency of wind turbines by up to ten percent. Currently, wind turbines lose one percent of their operating efficiency for every degree that the blades are out of alignment with the oncoming wind. The 'Vindicator' fibre-optic laser system can sense air particle movement about 300 metres out from the turbine itself then relay that information to the turbine control system. There, blade angle adjustments are made to take advantage of the prevailing winds.

The system utilises a modified version of Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) technology to take measurements and it can be mounted directly on the turbine itself. Three lasers fired from the device measure vertical and horizontal wind speeds at different distances, as well as sudden changes in direction. Currently, Vindicator is undergoing ground testing with the goal to have a production version available by 2010. If everything goes as planned, this could be big for wind power as a whole—more power at less cost. [Catch the Wind via Technology Review]