New “biplane” design by UCLA engineers could make wind energy cheaper and more efficient

December 17, 2019

UCLA researchers led by Richard Wirz, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering, have developed a revolutionary “biplane” design for wind turbines. The new design features two blades split in two near the rotor and fuse into a single blade towards the outer edge.

Photo Source: Wirz Research Group/UCLA

The two-wing design would increase the structural strength of wind turbines so they can be 45% lighter, potentially costing less to manufacture, and capturing more wind energy more efficiently.

Lighter blades would also allow manufacturers to build taller wind turbines higher above ground level, resulting in the capture of better-quality wind energy more efficiently.   “In the big picture, this may change the way we design large wind turbines and help make sustainable wind energy an even more attractive and ubiquitous option as we go away from fossil fuels,” Wirz said. As of 2018, wind accounts for less than 7% of energy generation in U.S. utilities.

A study on the effectiveness of the design was published by Wirz and former UCLA doctoral students Phillip Chiu and Perry Roth-Johnson in the journal Renewable Energy.

See related Sustainable LA Grand Challenge research project and read more at UCLA Newsroom.