Ingenieur Vol. 75 ingenieur July 2018-FA - Page 81

‟ Renewable energy – including wind, solar and hydropower – was the fastest growing energy source worldwide in 2017 was working on a “10-plus.” It expects to have a prototype ready by 2020 and to start installing them in wind farms by 2022. But it was GE that made the biggest splash when it announced plans for a 12-megawatt turbine in March. Known as the Haliade-X, it would stand nearly three times as tall as the Statue of Liberty and harness wind with blades that sweep an area the size of seven football fields. If it were to be installed on a typical German North Sea site, GE estimates the machine could generate enough power to supply 16,000 European households. The Challenges Indeed, the companies building ever-larger turbines all acknowledge that building a more powerful turbine is more difficult than just making the tower taller or the blades longer. How do you safely and quickly move turbine blades the length of soccer fields? Will cranes and ships need to be redesigned to handle bigger turbine towers? How soon can new factories and other infrastructure be built in emerging markets? Rahul Yarala, executive director of the Wind Technology Testing Centre, a massive, hangar- like facility in Boston where wind blades are put through their paces, says one big question is whether blades can be built in segments instead of as a single piece. That, he says, would make them easier to transport, but engineers would need to ensure that the assembled blades were sturdy enough to handle the stress of turning in potent winds. Companies are also working to make the turbines as smart, and digitally adjustable, as possible, so that workers can remotely change the pitch of a blade to catch more wind or diagnose and fix problems without having to make costly, time-consuming trips offshore. “The heart of any system is the control system,” says Danielle Merfeld, chief technology officer at GE Renewable Energy. “If you build those algorithms right you have essentially increased the IQ of your turbines.” A blade for an 8-megawatt wind turbine is installed at a wind farm in Liverpool Bay, U.K. BRAD PLUMER Rising Carbon Emissions Energy-efficiency slowed down, emissions rose in Asia, and coal use rebounded slightly last year. Roughly two-thirds of last year’s emissions increase came from Asia, where fast-growing countries like China, India and Indonesia continue to rely heavily on fossil fuels as they lift themselves out of poverty. The jump in Asian emissions overshadowed cuts made elsewhere in the world: The US, for instance, reduced its emissions 0.5% last year, driven by the growing deployment of renewable energy. Britain, Mexico and Japan also managed to cut their emissions. Renewable energy – including wind, solar and hydropower – was the fastest growing energy source worldwide in 2017. China alone installed as many solar panels last year as the entire solar capacity of France and Germany combined. And, the prices for renewable technologies keep falling. Last year’s “unprecedented” growth in renewables, the IEA said, satisfied only about one-qua