SBIR Phase I: Novel Plasma Actuator for Improved Wind Turbine Performance

Period of Performance: 12/15/2016 - 05/31/2017


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Aquanis, Inc.
224 Wickham Road
North Kingstown, RI 02852
Firm POC, Principal Investigator


The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is the reduction in the cost of renewable energy. The dramatic decline in the cost of wind energy over the last several decades has been fueled by the ever increasing turbine size and the introduction of new manufacturing methods and materials. However, the industry is approaching the limits of this trend due to the increased wear and tear of the turbine blades and drive train, caused by unsteady aerodynamic forces. Turbine manufacturers have been studying and testing various approaches to mitigate unsteady aerodynamic loads, including independent blade pitch control, trailing edge flaps, microtabs, boundary layer blowing, and mechanical camber control. Each of these potential solutions is costly, complex, and requires moving parts. As a result, none has moved beyond the prototype stage. The new active load-control system, based on plasma actuators, has the potential to leap-frog all other solutions. This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project will demonstrate the feasibility of countering unsteady aerodynamic forces in utility-scale wind turbines by controlling the air flow around the blades with blade-mounted plasma actuators. This fully electronic flow control device will mitigate aerodynamic loads and enable the deployment of larger, more efficient and more durable turbines. Leveraging recent improvement in plasma actuator technology, with a ten-fold increase in thrust, and with one-tenth of the power consumption, a new innovative actuator will be designed, built and tested with 2-4X performance improvement over the current state of the art. This level of performance will be sufficient to counter unsteady aerodynamic forces in large wind turbines with blade tip speeds of up to 200 miles/hour.