| Strengths & Weaknesses
| Future Development
| Vendors |
A great deal of research is underway to improve wind turbine technology. Technology improvements already achieved have lowered wind energy costs to an average of 5 cents per kilowatt-hour at sites with 5.8 m/s (13 mph) average annual wind speeds. Further turbine research and development projects are expected to lower the cost of energy from wind to 2.5 cents/kilowatt-hour or less by 2002 (at sites with 6.7 m/s [15 mph] winds). The US government views wind power to be one of the least expensive forms of new electric generation in the future.
Each part of the wind turbine is being subjected to research in order to improve efficiency and reduce costs. Several organizations, including the University of Colorado, are working to improve wind turbine generators to be more efficient. Some of the new technology that is being developed uses power electronics to allow for variable rotor speed operation to improve efficiency, control structural loads and improve power quality. Current wind turbines use generators that can generate electricity only when the turbine's shaft turns at a rate of 1800 revolutions per minute or greater. However, since a turbine's rotor generally turns at only 60 rpm, it is necessary to increase the rotational speed of the shaft to the speed needed for the motor.
The airfoils for the wind turbine blades are also being improved to increase energy capture, and improvements have been made to aerodynamics control devices that are built into the turbine blades to adjust the aerodynamic driving forces, optimize energy capture, control loads and control rotor speed.