From wind to torque with the "Smart Rotor" describes the DLR focus on wind energy research. For this purpose, DLR researchers benefit from their aerospace know-how when conceiving wind power plants with higher performance, lower noise and lighter weight features.
In helicopters, the dynamic uplift is generated by the upstream airflow at the rotor blades. This is the process DLR scientists are specialised in. The same physical principles apply to the airflow driving a wind power plant for efficient current generation. Be it on water or land - wind power plants count among the most important technologies for sustainable energy supply in Germany and around the globe. This is why it is necessary beside the expansion of on-shore and offshore wind park areas to achieve a clearly increased performance. At the same time, wind turbines should rotate quieter, and manufacturing as well as maintenance costs should be deducted.
Aerodynamics, aeroelasticity and aeroacoustics play a decisive role in the wind energy technology. The DLR offers know-how to companies from the wind industry facing an ever-increasing competition on the international market. DLR researchers have the competencies to address the issues arising.
Lighter and bigger: wind power plants for the future
Experts assume that individual wind turbines will perform at up to 20 megawatt in the future. If plant manufacturers just enlarged them based on today’s constructions, the rotor blades would exceed 100 metres in length and 100 tons in weight. The traditional fibreglass construction of rotor blades would not only be too heavyweight, it would lack stiffness, too. And the blades bended by the wind load would no longer keep the minimum distance to the wind tower. State-of-the-art performance classes require construction and materials to be adapted to the new standard. DLR researchers develop rotor blades with a high share of carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP), providing five times the rigidity and stiffness compared to traditional blades. Additionally, rotor blades will have higher stability levels in functional lightweight construction. Simultaneously, automated production processes will dramatically lower manufacturing costs.
Sensor technology and smart controls
Smart sensor technology and controls do not require rotor blade stopping, even with strong wind gusts. In this respect, the DLR can contribute to the development of smart blades with adaptive, flexibly moveably rotor blades and a so-called droop nose. The wind power plant of the future will not only be higher performing but will have to be more reliable, easier to manufacture and to maintain. The DLR will carry out tests of wind energy plants and their individual components on own test rigs; here, the DLR scientists conduct numeric simulations, with wind channels that are unique within Europe. Within the German “Research Alliance Wind Energy” (DLR, ForWind, IWES) test facilities are provided for all major investigation aspects of wind energy plants.
How does the wind blow around the wind power plant?
The DLR has particular wind energy competencies, arising from our remote sensing activities. DLR researchers use satellite data to generate more precise wind speed forecasts for individual plants or parks. These forecasts enable wind energy operators to an optimum control of their turbines and to anticipate their electricity feed into the grid. In the domain of system analysis the DLR measures wind potentials in the region and over the globe. Investors benefit from these data for their evaluation of wind power plant sites. Optical tracking with so-called Lidar systems can capture the wind flows and their interaction within an entire wind park. This is also a prerequisite for better understanding of the aero-acoustic behaviour and for improving noise protection of the resident population. In the future, plant manufacturers will be capable of providing a better wind park design.