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    Yevgeny Sirotikin, wind turbine specialist from South Ural State University

    Arctic Squall: Russian Scientists Create Super Tough Wind Turbine for Arctic Use

    © Photo : South Ural State University
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    Scientists from South Ural State University have perfected a technology which allows wind turbines to operate continuously in the severe wind conditions of the Arctic. In inhospitable territories where a central power grid is nonexistent, the turbines are seen as an ideal, if not essential solution for the supply of electricity.

    In some areas along the Russian Arctic coast, wind speeds regularly exceed 5-7 m/s, an extremely favorable indicator for the cost-effective use of wind energy. 

    However, the use of conventional wind turbines has been limited by the regular bursts of high wind speeds, which can damage or break wind turbine equipment. At speeds above 11 m/s, the rotors of traditional turbines risk damage, and their electric generators can overheat. Wind speeds above 25 m/s threaten to destroy the wind turbines altogether.

    Russian engineers conducting tests in the Kanin Peninsula, a large Arctic territory in the Nenets Autonomous Region bordering the White and Barents Seas, have found that not a single foreign wind turbine could withstand wind speeds in local conditions. This, scientists said, was an indication that their onboard speed-limiting systems were not effective, and designed for work only in 'hothouse conditions.'

    Coastline of the Franz Josef Land archipelago.
    © Sputnik / Vladimir Baranov
    Coastline of the Franz Josef Land archipelago.

    Accordingly, one of the key challenges for a team of scientists from South Ural State University in Chelyabinsk, Russia has been to come up with an effective mechanism for limiting the power sent from the turbine when wind speeds reach above 11 m/s. The team specializing in wind power has created a unique electromechanical control system which can slow down the rotor, preventing it from reaching dangerous speeds.

    The unique nature of the system developed by the Russian scientists consists of its low use of small amounts of power from the generator itself for braking. The completely automatic control system consists of a combination of mechanical and electrical blocks, a programmable microcontroller, and a set of sensors which monitor the current state of the wind turbine's main components.

    Yevgeny Sirotkin, a postgraduate student at South Ural State University's Polytechnic Institute, said that the system he and his fellow researchers are working on is one-of-a-kind. "The system we ae making has no analogues in the world. We plan to create a small enterprise which will engage in the production of these systems."

    "In the Arctic, such a system can pay for itself in the space of a week or a month, following the first wind storm," Sirotkin explained. "The cost of our electromechanical system will be only 2-3% that of the total cost of the wind turbine, and will have a service life of 35 years."

    Integrated electromechanical braking block for wind turbines. Components: 1. Turbine hub; 2. Contact wall; 3. Locking piece; 4. Guide body; 5. Waveform gear reduction unit; 6. Reducer input shaft (gear wheel) 7. Guide disk; 8. Flexible manual drive cable; 9. Wire from generator; 10. Electric drive; 11. Drive gear; 12. Mast flange
    © Photo : South Ural State University
    Integrated electromechanical braking block for wind turbines. Components: 1. Turbine hub; 2. Contact wall; 3. Locking piece; 4. Guide body; 5. Waveform gear reduction unit; 6. Reducer input shaft (gear wheel) 7. Guide disk; 8. Flexible manual drive cable; 9. Wire from generator; 10. Electric drive; 11. Drive gear; 12. Mast flange

    The scientist emphasized that in areas without a power grid, the cost of electricity generated from wind turbines is just 5-10 rubles per kilowatt-hour  ($0.08-0.16 US), far below the cost of energy produced by diesel generators, which can reach up to 80 rubles per kWh ($1.33), and aren't suited for year-round use in harsh Arctic conditions.

    The mass production of the super-tough Russian wind turbines requires a large production capacity, including a workshop for casting rotors, a shop for building generators, a workshop for its metal support components, etc. Therefore, the final assembly will take place at a large defense enterprise with which South Ural State University is already cooperating. University scientists will produce the control systems, and supply the finished products for installation aboard the turbines.

    The scientists say they are already conducting joint scientific work with their US counterparts, and that Japanese investors are interested in the development of vertical axis wind turbines. 

    "Horizontal axial wind turbines were developed long ago; their designs have been fine-tuned and worked out. But vertical axis turbines are only starting their development, and this is a very large field of research. Such turbines can be placed on the roofs of buildings, and close to residential areas. Because they do not create vibrations, they do not create infrasonic noise," Sirotkin said.

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    Tags:
    wind turbine, South Ural State University, Yevgeny Sirotkin, Russia, Arctic
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