Researchers are giving wind turbines blades that are 200 meters (656 feet) long and the new turbine will reach 479 meters (1,574 feet) into the sky – a height that’s 30 meters (100 feet) taller than the Empire State Building.
Today’s longest blades are 262.5 feet.
Eric Loth (University of Virginia) is one of the leaders of a team, which includes four universities and two national laboratories, that has three years to build and test a scaled prototype in the hopes of making the blade a reality.
The 200-meter blades would have segments that can spread out in light wind and tighten up in strong winds.
The segmented design, dubbed Segmented Ultralight Morphing Rotors, makes building and transporting the blades way easier than single-framed blades.
If everything goes the way they plan, the turbine could generate up to 50 megawatts of electricity – 25 times more energy than a traditional wind turbine.
The U.S. Energy Department is funding the project through its Advanced Research Projects Agency energy program at a cost of $3.5 million.
The project’s goal is to produce a prototype at one-10th scale by 2019 that would be tested by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado.
“Like a flower, the petals are spread out, and we reach out and grab as much wind as we can,” Loth said.
Conversely, when winds blow with hurricane force the blades would contract, almost like a claw.
The super-sized blades will be broken down in 131.2-foot or 164-foot segments and assembled at the site.
A large offshore wind farm has been commissioned for construction beginning in 2016 off the southern coast of the United Kingdom, and is planned to have 32 turbines sized at 8 megawatts each, equivalent to the power needed for 180,000 homes.
8 MW wind turbines will soon be tested