Inside Rensselaer
Developing Smarter Wind Turbine Blades
U.S. Congressman Paul Tonko (center) visited Rensselaer’s Subsonic Large-Scale Wind Tunnel Lab recently to learn more about the research. Professor Amitay (second from right) and Provost Palazzo (right) joined officials from NYSERDA for the demonstration. More than two dozen undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral students have assisted with the research.

Aerospace engineering expert Michael “Miki” Amitay, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering, has received a $250,000 grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to continue his work on smarter blades for wind turbines.

For the past three years, Amitay has led several studies into new technologies that could optimize wind turbines for Upstate New York’s gusty, turbulent winds. In this region, the wind is inconsistent and wind shear values can be rather high. This leads to wind turbines operating inefficiently, and also increases the risk for structural damage to the turbine blades.

Amitay has developed a new technology to help dramatically lessen the impact of low and gusty winds on wind turbines. His solution involves incorporating small synthetic jet actuators into wind turbine blades. These actuators can produce puffs of air that alter the flow of air around the blade. Sensors built into the blade can sense how the air is flowing around the blade, and how much vibration-induced strain the blade is experiencing. These sensors automatically activate the actuators, in real time.

These actuators make wind turbine blades more aerodynamic and less prone to damage by reducing the stress on wind turbine blades caused by strong gusts of wind and turbulence. The actuators make wind turbine blades more aerodynamic and longer-lived by significantly reducing how much the blades vibrate.

Amitay is a member of the Rensselaer Center for Future Energy Systems and the Rensselaer Center for Automation Technologies and Systems. His wind turbine research is supported with funding from NYSERDA, the National Science Foundation, the New York State Foundation for Science, Technology and Innovation, and other organizations.

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 5, Number 3, February 18, 2011
©2010 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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