One of the challenges of wind farms today is finding the space to build the towers. They can't be so close to each other that they interfere with the wind patterns.
Now, however, Robert Whittlesey and John Dabiri of the California Institute of Technology have developed a wind farm design that they say could be more efficient. It's related to the way fish school.
"When fish swim, they shed tiny vortices in their wake," Dabiri said in a prepared statement. "By schooling together, they can potentially help each other swim by transferring energy between one another through these vortices."
So the farm designed by Whittlesey and Dabiri has closely-spaced vertical-axis turbines (the wind-catching blades go around a vertical axis instead of the more traditional way of turning horizontally around a hub). Basically, as each is turned by the wind, it both extracts energy for itself and also helps to direct the flow of wind to the other turbines.
The researchers have fed their data into a computer model to help them arrive at the optimal spacing, and the model showed this could increase the power-per-acre of a wind farm a hundredfold. They presented their findings recently at the 62nd Annual Meeting of the American Physical Society's Division of Fluid Dynamics.
Meanwhile, a pediatrician and population biologist in Malone, N.Y., has published a book-length study: "Wind Turbine Syndrome: A Report on a Natural Experiment."
The study was based on interviews with a mere10 families, all living 1,000-4,900 feet away from recently built industrial-size wind turbines. But Dr. Nina Pierpont said the data are nevertheless a concern. She found a "cluster" of symptoms, from sleep disturbance, which affected almost everyone, to headache to tinnitus, vertigo, nausea, irritability, memory and concentration problems, and panic episodes. Symptoms stopped when the residents left the area and came back when the families returned. Eight of the ten families eventually moved.