Engineering Student Develops Prototype That Stores 'Mechanical Spillage' from Wind Turbines

Jie Cheng, a Ph.D. candidate in electrical engineering, has developed a system that captures and stores wasted energy for later use.

A student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has his sights set on improving the efficiency of wind turbines.

Jie Cheng, a Ph.D. candidate in electrical engineering, has developed a system that captures and stores wasted energy for later use.

Today’s wind turbines capture only about 60 percent of kinetic energy that passes through the blades, and once the wind speed threshold is reached the turbines’ blades automatically angle to avoid damage and maintain optimal power output.  The lost wind energy, “mechanical spillage,” equates to an inefficient system.

"The biggest problem for wind energy is that it's not a reliable energy resource," said Cheng. "Even if there's not enough wind to generate electricity, the community still needs it. If we can (scale up) this system, it could improve reliability by producing electricity even when there's no wind."

Cheng’s system captures and stores the spillage in an air compression tank until the wind speed drops below the threshold and the turbine returns to normal operations.  The stored energy is then converted to electricity.

Using historical wind data from rural Nebraska, Cheng recently compared the performance of his prototype with a conventional wind turbine. The study found a 250-kW system would generate an extra 3,830 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity a week – about 16,400 extra kWh a month.  That would account for more than 18 times the monthly consumption of an average American household.

Cheng’s study, authored with adviser Fred Choobineh, was published in the Journal of Power and Energy Engineering.  He is now working with the university and industry partners to get the system on the market.

Did You Like this Article? Get All the Energy Industry News Delivered to Your Inbox

Subscribe to an email newsletter today at no cost and receive the latest news and information.

 Subscribe Now


The Time is Right for Optimum Reliability: Capital-Intensive Industries and Asset Performance Management

Imagine a plant that is no longer at risk of a random shutdown. Imagine not worrying about losing...

Going Digital: The New Normal in Oil & Gas

In this whitepaper you will learn how Keystone Engineering, ONGC, and Saipem are using software t...

Maximizing Operational Excellence

In a recent survey conducted by PennEnergy Research, 70% of surveyed energy industry professional...

Leveraging the Power of Information in the Energy Industry

Information Governance is about more than compliance. It’s about using your information to drive ...