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In low and high winds -- American blade design

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An advanced wind turbine blade able to produce energy at low wind speeds while twisting to safely adapt to higher gusts should be ready for commercial production by next summer. The invention, called the adaptive sweep twist blade, is being developed by the wind blade division of Knight & Carver, a California company primarily known for building yachts. The $2.8 million project received $2 million in development costs from the US Department of Energy (DOE).

"Anybody can put a longer blade on a machine and it will produce more power until something breaks," says Knight & Carver's Gary Kanaby. "But the loads on the machine from our blade will never be more than the original blades."

According to Kanaby, the blade can be used on most machines and will increase the cost of a turbine by about 1%. "We figure it's worth 5-10% additional energy captured over the course of a year," he says. "It should make a lot more money in low wind areas and that's the idea of the government sponsoring it. You'll be able to build wind farms closer to load centres where the wind usually isn't as good."

The project recently won a DOE design award and Kanaby expects to have a rotor up in February with test results completed by May. Although the 27, 2 metre blade has not yet passed any real-world testing, Kanaby believes his company got it right. "It's very simple," he says. "There's a lot of time at any wind farm when you're not at full power. But this blade reaches full power at eleven metres a second, whereas other blades haven't. That's all money in your pocket with very little increase in the cost of blades."

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