Next thing in wind energy: stealth wind turbines

An estimated 20 gigawatts of worldwide wind farm capacity is blocked by radar interference concerns, Vestas Technology R&D testing validates an efficient solution for wind power. Vestas, the world leader in providing high-tech wind power systems, today announced that it has taken a major step forward in solving a critical wind energy challenge: It has successfully tested a full-scale “stealth” rotor on a turbine, paving the way for wind power plants to be located near many military, airport and other radar systems without interfering in their operations.

The stealth turbine test, which was conducted at a UK customer site with technology partner QinetiQ, is part of an ongoing research collaboration that began in 2006. Preliminary test results, announced today at the International Wind and Radar Forum in Ottawa, Canada, showed that a Vestas V90 turbine with stealth rotor achieved a targeted reduction in radar cross-section of approximately 99 percent, or 20 decibels, compared with standard turbines.

Potential for new wind power locations

“Our testing has demonstrated that we have successfully adapted military stealth technology to make Vestas wind turbines viable for placement in many locations that have been restricted by radar concerns,” said Vestas Technology R&D President Finn Strøm Madsen.

“This is a critical step toward the commercialization of stealth turbines and holds potential to open a significant number of wind farm locations for Vestas customers.”

With an estimated 20 gigawatts of wind power capacity currently blocked worldwide by concerns about radar interference, Vestas’ stealth turbine research has validated a potentially important addition to the operational, technical and political mitigation tools available today.

Adaptation of proven military technology

The stealth turbine solution uses a portfolio of radar absorbing materials that are integrated into the current manufacturing processes for turbine components and can be designed to operate at aviation and maritime frequencies. These modifications do not affect the performance or appearance of the wind turbines, which meet current visual standards.

The full-scale test announced today follows more than five years of research collaboration with UK-based QinetiQ to develop and improve the application of military stealth technology to wind turbines. Early laboratory and wind tunnel testing progressed to initial site testing of a single, 44-meter blade in late 2009. Additional design optimization led to process cost reductions and quality improvements that were verified by the full-scale testing of a three-blade stealth turbine in 2011.

Every single day, Vestas wind turbines deliver clean energy that supports the global fight against climate change. Wind power from Vestas’ more than 43,433 wind turbines currently reduces carbon emissions by approximately 50 million tons of CO2 every year, while at the same time building energy security and independence. Vestas operates in close to 70 countries, providing jobs for over 20,000 passionate people at our service and wind farm sites, research facilities, factories and offices all over the world.