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Scientist Use Schooling Fish to Create New Wind Farm Technology
By Joseph Tepper, August 9, 2011 @ 07:00 AM (EST)
Source: BBC News

By studying the kinetics of schooling fish scientists have been able to increase efficiency of wind farms and produce more energy.

In an effort to replace familiar style wind turbines, which feature blades like a fan that limits efficiency, scientists are now testing “vertical axis turbines.” This new style turbine is shaped like a spinning egg whisk, and can potentially produce ten times the amount of power as the old system. Surprisingly enough, the movement of schooling fish inspired the research behind the vertical axis turbines. 

"Organizing the arrangement of wind turbines based upon the vortices shed by schooling fish is definitely a new approach," said aeronautical engineer Robert Whittlesey of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). "The fish aim to align themselves to optimize their forward propulsion," he writes, and this can be adapted in a turbine array to maximize energy extraction.”

The vertical axis turbines are actually less efficient individually, but can accept wind energy from multiple directions and work together as a group. A new study published in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy found that turbines five rows back could still produce 95% of the energy of the first row!

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