University researches wind energy

A University of Minnesota research projects hopes to find ways to increase the efficiency of wind turbines.

Funded by an $8 million grant from the Department of Energy, researchers will put up a brand new 2.5 megawatt turbine at UMore Park in Rosemount. Construction is underway on the project which should be operational in early August, University of Minnesota Civil Engineering Professor Fotis Sotiropoulos said.

Sotiropoulos said researchers will use the machine to find ways to make wind turbines more efficient, to help them squeeze more power out of every puff of wind. He said one approach is to reduce air drag on turbine blades.

Researchers are experimenting with a film made by the 3M Corp. that has tiny grooves in its surface. The film has already been shown to reduce drag on airplane wings.

The film also has shown promise for turbine blades in wind tunnel experiments at the University’s St. Anthony Falls Laboratory, said Sotiropoulos, the lab’s director. He said the tests show the film reduces drag on the blades.

The next step is to try the 3M film on the UMore Park turbine once it’s operational.

Aother experiment will be to try to find a coating which prevents ice buildup on wind turbine blades. Sotiropoulos said that would also help reduce drag and make the machines more efficient.

The federal grant is part of the Department of Energy’s efforts to find ways to generative more electricity from alternative sources.

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