How to build a better wind farm

It is crucial that we fully understand the relationship between turbine placements and maximum energy extractionWashington, DC - Location, location, location - When it comes to the installation of wind turbines, the old saying "location, location, location" applies according to new research published by Carnegie's Enrico Antonini & Ken Caldeira in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.Turbines turn wind's kinetic energy to produce electrical energy. The very act of installing turbines can affect our ability to harness wind's power. The wind is affected when a turbine interacts with it. The ability of one turbine to extract energy from wind affects the ability of its neighbours.Antonini stated that although wind is not going to run dry as an energy resource, it can be harvested in a limited way. Wind turbines that are clustered together in large numbers reduce their efficiency and the speed at which they extract energy.Caldeira and Antonini set out to determine the maximum size of a windfarm before it exceeds its capacity per unit of land. They also wanted to know how big large farms can cast a "wind shadow", which could have a negative impact on downwind installations.Caldeira stated that wind farms could provide as much as one third of the global energy supply by 2050 if we abandon fossil fuels. It is crucial that we know the relationship between turbine placements and maximum energy extraction.After some of the wind's kinetic energy has been extracted from a wind farm, it takes time for wind to recover to its normal strength. Antonini and Caldeira stated that the speed at which wind recovers from being struck by a turbine depends on its latitude and Earth's rotation. Studies on wind power generation in the past have shown large wakes. Therefore, Antonini and Caldeira created a theoretical understanding of how these wakes are controlled.The speed of wind and the time it takes for pressure differences to restore the energy extracted by the turbines determine the size of large wind farms' wakes. These factors must be taken into consideration when placing wind farms in different locations.They found that turbines located in high wind areas are more susceptible to being affected by upstream neighbors than those situated in lower winds areas. Wind farms closer to the Equator are more susceptible to being negatively affected by upstream wind farms' wind shadows than those closer to the poles.Caldeira stated that wind energy could be a source of large amounts carbon-emission-free electricity. "But, to make the most of this resource, it is important to consider how other wind farm might affect us and how we might impact other wind farms."The authors suggested that multiple small wind farms, with space for wind recuperation in between them, could be more efficient in certain locations than one large wind farm. However, more research is necessary.Antonini stated that he hoped the work would enable managers and builders of wind turbines to create the most favorable conditions for maximum wind power generation.###This work was made possible by a donation from Gates Ventures LLC, to the Carnegie Institution for Science.The Carnegie Institution for Science (, a private, non-profit organization, is based in Washington, D.C., and has three research divisions on each coast. The Carnegie Institution has been an innovator in basic scientific research since its inception in 1902. The Carnegie scientists are experts in life and environmental sciences, Earth, planetary science, astronomy, and astrophysics.