Scientists at the University of Minnesota (UMN) used snowflakes from a winter snowstorm to study the airflow patterns around large wind turbines. This measurement technique could prove valuable to improving wind energy efficiency.
The Global Wind Energy Council expects wind installations of at least 47 GW in 2014, a dramatic increase over 2013 levels. However, this number could be even more impressive if not for the energy losses. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates energy losses in wind farms to be as high as 10-20 percent and identifies complex airflows created by the turbines as the major culprit for such losses. As wind turbines have grown to more than 100 meters tall, field research in real-world settings has become more difficult.