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Beating Betz: Improving the Efficiency of Next-Generation Wind Energy

John Dabiri, California Institute of Technology

Wind turbines now achieve power conversion efficiencies that approach the theoretical maximum value hypothesized by Albert Betz more than 100 years ago. Underlying both the Betz theory and the design of modern wind turbines is an assumption of steady flow through the device. This talk will explore opportunities to create and exploit unsteady fluid mechanics to potentially exceed the Betz limit. In addition, we will highlight examples in which collective aerodynamics in arrays of wind turbines can significantly increase wind energy harvested from a given wind farm footprint, while further enhancing the individual wind turbine power conversion efficiency in the process. Theoretical analyses are used to guide laboratory and full-scale field tests of these concepts. Promising initial results motivate application of this approach to both centralized and distributed wind energy generation. 


John Dabiri is the Centennial Chair Professor at Caltech, with appointments in the Graduate Aerospace Laboratories (GALCIT) and Mechanical Engineering. His research focuses on unsteady fluid mechanics and flow physics, with particular emphasis on topics relevant to biology, energy, and the environment. Current interests include biological fluid dynamics in the ocean, next-generation wind energy, and development of new experimental methods. Dabiri is a MacArthur Fellow and Fellow of the American Physical Society. Other honors include the Alan T. Waterman Award from the National Science Foundation, the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), and the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Program Award. He is the Chair of the American Physical Society Division of Fluid Dynamics.