Improving the efficiency of wind turbines through vibration detection

Problem Title

Improving the efficiency of wind turbines through vibration detection

Scientific Title

Sensing wind turbine vibrations using electric guitar pickups

Matthew Wojick
Electrical Engineering
iCons Concentration: 
Renewable Energy
iCons Class Year: 
Class of 2015
Executive Summary 

There is enough wind available now to supply several times the world's total energy needs. But there are still some inefficiencies holding wind turbines back from their full potential. One of these is wasted energy in the form of vibrations within the turbine. Not a lot has been done in the way of detecting and characterizing these vibrations, and some of the devices that are currently used, such as accelerometers, are not very accurate. So to measure turbine vibrations more accurately, I am proposing to use a device that is actually already used in electric guitars, called 'pickups'.

However, the issue with just using pickups to detect guitar string vibrations is that no information is stored; it is just passed to a speaker and forgotten. This year, my senior design team is building a system that will store and analyze these signals. In our case, we are going to be converting their frequencies into notes, and later into guitar tabs. Although this project is not directly focused on wind turbines themselves, I am hoping to draw a parallel between them: the moving parts of the wind turbine can act as the vibrating strings, while static, non-vibrating parts of the turbine can act as the base of the guitar. This would allow a direct and accurate reading of the vibrations, and adjustments can be made accordingly to decrease the effect. This could lead to increasing the efficiency of wind turbines, and make wind energy a more viable solution.

Problem Keywords: 
wind turbine efficiency
Scientific Keywords: 
turbine vibrations