Laser-equipped turbines could lower the cost of wind power

Someone at Virginia-based Catch the Wind went to the Doctor Evil School of Making Things Better — just put a frikkin' laser beam on it.

Catch the Wind has a fiber-optic, laser-based LIDAR system that can give wind turbines a few seconds to adjust to incoming air currents — reducing wear and tear on the turbine blades, driving down cost by making them more efficient, and also increasing how much power is generated. According to the Technology Review, wind turbines trade a percent of efficiency for every degree that the blades aren't aligned correctly. So even small corrections to a wind turbine's blade would help stop it from bleeding potential energy. The LIDAR (or light detecting and ranging) units could give turbines up to 20 seconds to adjust to what's coming, rather than react to the forces on the blades.

Catch the Wind plans to have working LIDAR devices for this purpose by next spring, with commercial products available in 2010.

Via Technology Review