Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Schooling fish inspire new approach to wind farming

Schooling fish, it turns out, have a lot to teach us about setting up wind farms. That’s the conclusion reached by John Dabiri, a fluid dynamics expert from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). One of the biggest current problems with wind farms is the large land area that they require - if you place the turbines too close to one another, they will be adversely effected by each other’s turbulence. By applying principles learned from observing fish, however, Dabiri thinks he might have found a solution.

Dabiri also noticed that the fish and their vortices were arranged in a staircase pattern relative to one another. Again, this runs contrary to most wind farms, where the turbines are placed in neat rows. By conducting a field study incorporating closely-spaced, staggered vertical-axis turbines spinning in alternating directions, he hopes to show just how much more efficient wind power can become. According to Caltech's computer models, he believes his set up could be up to ten times more efficient than traditional models.

Read the full story by Ben Coxworth

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