Active Aerodynamic Load Control for Wind Turbines

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OPEN 2018
North Kingstown, Rhode Island
Project Term:
03/18/2019 - 10/31/2023

Critical Need:

Increasing hub heights and rotor diameters to capture more energy per wind turbine has reduced costs. Without new technologies, however, larger turbines struggle to lead to a lower levelized cost of energy (LCOE). Capital costs grow with rotor diameter, faster than the power increases, because the blades get heavier as they get larger. Increasing blade mass drives up material costs not only for the blade, but also for the hub, pitch assembly, drivetrain, tower, and foundation. The growth in blade mass with blade length is accelerated by the additional structure that must be added to withstand unsteady aerodynamics caused by turbulence, gusts, and wind shear. New approaches to addressing unsteady aerodynamic loads are needed to dramatically reduce wind energy costs.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

Aquanis will develop advanced plasma actuators and controls to reduce aerodynamic loads on wind turbine blades, facilitating the next generation of larger (20+ MW), smarter wind turbines. The technology contains no moving parts, instead using purely electrical plasma actuators on the blade that set the adjacent air in motion when powered. This system can change the lift and drag forces on turbine blades to reduce blade mechanical fatigue and enable the design of larger and cheaper blades. Currently effective at laboratory scales, Aquanis plans to improve the plasma actuator capabilities and field test a prototype plasma actuator system on a wind turbine.

Potential Impact:

Aquanis will develop a controllable trailing edge flap for wind turbine blades using dielectric barrier discharge plasma actuators with no mechanical components or moving parts. The actuators control the airflow’s shape and speed as it passes over the blade, enabling turbines to react quickly to changes in the wind and limiting peak blade bending or tip deflections. As a result, designers will be able to employ longer blades without adding structural reinforcement. The new plasma actuators will also pave the way for using control co-design techniques to find wind energy solutions with a much lower LCOE.


Advances in wind power technology will increase U.S. leadership in the wind energy sector.


Increased wind power penetration in the grid energy market will lower greenhouse gas emissions and reduce water consumption.


Aquanis’s advanced actuator will lead to a LCOE, making wind power a more attractive alternative for consumers and businesses.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Mario Garcia-Sanz
Project Contact:
Dr. Neal Fine
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


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