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Canada

A whale of a lesson -- Blade design (3)

The Wind Energy Institute of Canada (WEICan) is testing new wind turbine blade technology designed to mimic the aerodynamic performance of a humpback whale flipper. The blades have teeth-like bumps along their leading edge, modelled after the protuberances, called tubercles, found on the leading edge of the pectoral flippers of humpback whales. The whales, which can reach 16 metres in length and weigh up to 39,000 kilograms, are surprisingly agile despite their enormous size. Recent research, says Stephen Dewar of Toronto-based Whalepower Corporation, the company that designed the blade, suggests that much of the humpback's manoeuvrability derives from these tubercles.

"Scientific research conducted at major universities and by the US Navy has shown that tubercle technology can operate at much higher pitch, producing much more lift with surprisingly low drag. In wind turbines that all adds up to more power and more reliability," says Dewar. WEICan, located at the north-western tip of Prince Edward Island, is conducting the first comprehensive field tests of the blades on a wind turbine. "We are very pleased that Whalepower has selected WEICan to undertake this work and we very much look forward to carrying out these tests over the coming months," says technical director Paul Dockrill. Whalepower received about C$70,000 in early-stage research funding earlier this year from the Ontario Centres of Excellence and the Ontario Power Authority.

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