Flexible Rotor Technology and the “Storm Master” Wind Turbine
A Brief History - 1977 to 2009 by Ed Salter The flexible, three blade rotor is an essential ingredient of the Universal Wind Turbine system, yet very few in the industry are fully aware of this technology. It got its start at Wind Power Systems, Inc. in 1977 when we installed the “Storm Master” prototype on a windy hilltop near Fallbrook, California. Shortly thereafter, Jay Carter Jr. introduced a two-blade flexible rotor turbine, which he began to manufacture in 1981 at his facility in Burkburnett, Texas. The Storm Master is characterized by its three, very slender blades and its eight degree preconed rotor, which operates downwind of the tower. The simple mainframe consists of a bed plate mounted on the turntable housing that uses a 350mm slewing ring bearing for yawing into the wind. The gearbox is a standard concentric-shaft industrial speed reducer with a 13.9:1 ratio that is used as a speed increaser. An aluminum cowling covers the brake system and the gearbox and generator are uncovered. This aids in cooling these components, but the finished unit is much less refined in appearance than the other turbines of that era which used streamlined fairings, or “nacelles”. A sophisticated (for the time) microprocessor-based controller was introduced in 1982, and these are still in use today. In late December, 1981, we shipped the first 15 Storm Master Model 12's to the Zond “Victory Garden” Wind farm in Tehachapi, California. In retrospect, this should have never happened, since the Storm Master needed at least two more years of intense development and testing in order to survive the swirling 60 mph plus storms that frequented the Tehachapi Pass. The results were predictable, and although nearly 500 units were sold, Wind Power Systems, Inc. was forced out of business by a customer's lawsuit in April, 1985. However, this was not the end of the story. Centrifugal underconing moment Wind thrust overconing moment
Moment balance in a flexible preconed rotor enables a wide range of performance and economic benefits that are unattainable with conventional rigid upwind technology
Right, Top: The ideal flexible rotor balances wind thrust moments acting on the blades with the centrifugal moments, to achieve the lowest possible flapwise strain in the blades, and allowing them to achieve “infinite life”.
Right: The Wind Power Systems, Inc. crew after working all night to ready the first shipment for the Zond “Victory Garden I” development in Tehachapi in December, 1981. From left: Bill Leighty, Robert Fridell, Simon Hume, Bob Marine, Brent Gordon and Ed Salter
The other served as platform for developing new design concepts The Cabazon site was ”blessed” with particularly brutal wind conditions. yaw drives. The name was inspired by the somewhat-triangular shape of the hub frame. to a storage yard in N. If a turbine could operate there for a couple of wind seasons. The BLM issued a “Stop Work Order” and looters and vandals moved in and destroyed the electrical power infrastructure. San Gorgonio Pass. warranty insurance policy. For an equivalent energy production. in North Palm Springs to design retrofit packages for European turbines installed in the Palm Springs area between 1983 and 1987 that were experiencing high failure rates of the braking systems. No roller bearings were used in the Delta Hub – only composite sleeve bearings. and new controller firmware. Also included were upgrades to the blades. since it was now running unloaded and putting all of its rapidly increasing torque into accelerating itself. and their blades we at least ten times heavier. One of these two turbines was fully instrumented and had served as our test unit.In May of 1985. In 1987. 1985
. In the 4th quarter of 1985 we started selling major upgrade packages to Storm Master owners who had received settlements under their Wind Power Systems. the blades would pitch in unison. and gearboxes. These were trucked back to our shop in San Marcos. Losing the Cabazon test site was a huge blow to our efforts at the time. In 1988. This was accomplished without any active controls in the hub.
Top: Inspecting the first cast chrome moly steel Delta hub frame to come out of the mold in June. the developer absconded with the insurance settlement money. These ranged in size from 15 m to 18 m. reducing the rotor speed to the point where the brake could easily bring it to a stop. most. 1985. structural improvements. The centerpiece of the upgrade package was the “Delta Rotor Hub” which replaced the failure-prone OEM unit. In the event of a power outage in high winds. which made it an excellent site for R&D and testing. Palm Springs. and what was left of the controllers. these turbines weighed three times as much as the Storm Master. We removed all of the turbines. There were a number of reasons for this. hired two service techs and a part. These turbines were located in the Altamont Pass. When the Delta Hub's fail-safe feathering mechanism deployed. where we had a contract to maintain the 50 upgraded Storm Masters that had been operating there virtually trouble-free since 1985. Centrifugal flyweights mounted to the blade receivers provided nearly 2. and North Palm Springs areas. with the exception of two turbines that belonged to me. if not all of the Storm Masters had been taken out of service and were being stored in various locations. I would gain a lot of confidence in its design and construction. rendering the entire development unusable. without any major problems. I opened a shop in San Marcos. including a few winter storms. and continued with development work and testing. Above: The first shipment of Delta Rotor Hubs heads for Tehachapi in September. and in one case. we received a contract from Field Service & Maintenance Co.time buyer. By 1990. Tehachapi. Inc.000 lbs of combined axial force to the feathering mechanism mounted inside the hub. including site re-development. the very light Storm Master rotor would accelerate at an incredible rate. an earthquake in the Palm Springs area damaged the substation at the Cabazon Windpark. towers.
Clockwise from top: 3D computer model of the 6 meter optimized blade. and purchased fourteen used Storm Master turbines. Bill Leighty... California and submitted a proposal in response to a DOE solicitation for developing innovative manufacturing methods for wind turbine blades. a former shareholder in Wind Power Systems. These turbines were equipped with upgraded six meter OEM blades. Inc. Flex testing an optimized blade using a rigid steel “Bookend” fixture bolted to the concrete. the rotor technology is scalable and this data will be invaluable in going forward with new design approaches. I reached an agreement with Bill in 1992 to use two of his sites for our two R&D turbines. Bill Leighty's work with his fleet of upgraded Storm Masters has resulted in a body of operational data going back fifteen years. Alaska. Mike Kelly and David Hartman flex test one of the first 6 meter OEM blades in 1981 using themselves and whatever they could find in the shop.000 kWhrs each – a capacity factor of 75% based on a rated power of 40kW. and the latest control firmware. I was there to observe the turbine run for the first time in winds up to 45 mph. In June of 1993. In 2003.
. Their energy production at this site was the highest I had ever seen for this turbine. a cable hoist and load cell in 2004. including power curve deficiencies and vibration during rapid yawing in high winds. producing 22. adding to what was learned during the critical R&D period in 1984 and 1985 at Wind Power Systems.In 1991. sold the family business in Juneau. Placing prepreg in a mold at Quatro Composites in 2004. Although these are small turbines by today's standards. both turbines operated continuously for the entire month. Leighty teamed with Quatro Composites in Poway. The first usable blade set was completed in early 2004 and was subjected to a series of static tests to determine its stiffness. He then made arrangements with a developer in Palm Springs to install them at a site located north of Interstate 10 and west of Indian Ave. and contracted with us to upgrade the turbines. He was awarded DOE contract #DE-FG-03GO13140 and retained my services to design the new blade and associated molds. All of the issues with the OEM blades had been successfully addressed.
The fully upgraded Storm Master has a total generating head (TGH) specific mass of 11. Iowa. and 5 MW turbines are up to 50 kg per sq. With over 700 million rotations per rotor there have been no fatiguerelated blade cracks or failures. blade plant with a crew of six workers over a period of 18 months. meter. Standing on the tower top plate is Ed Salter.
. Palm Springs. high performance. meter. D. This is in terms of its very efficient use of material. The original blades were made using a mold-less process which was developed at Wind Power Systems.66 kg/ sq. The turbines have survived and continue to operate in dozens of storms with winds in excess of 80 mph. but the gear teeth are polished and not pitted. These are shaped steel gears rather than the much higherquality case hardened and ground type. Over 1. meter. and his father.An upgraded Storm Master mainframe and Delta Rotor Hub with its brake cowling removed and a temporary fork lift channel bolted to the turntable. meter per month. Typical for 2MW class turbines is 20 to 24 kg per sq. This compares to 5 to 8 kg/sq meter for upwind turbines of today. H. Typical high-wind season production at the Palm Springs site with the 12 meter OEM rotor has been over 210 kWhr/ sq. The flexible rotor is very good at shedding loads that damage gears.800 of these blades were manufactured in a 5. Inc.4 kg per sq. Alaska.000 sq. Right: The optimized DOE blade set installed on turbine #B1 in N. Delta Hub-equipped Storm Masters have never experienced a hub failure that resulted in an overspeed incident and consequent loss of rotor blades. This blade set has a specific mass of 0. these blades can now be considered to be “infinite life” components. and absolute minimum imposed load set. meter. infinite life. The upgraded Storm Masters have had zero structural failures of the turbine chassis and tower in 250+ machine-years of operation. in spite of its relatively small rotor size and large generator and gearbox. there is this: The optimized OEM blade set (shown at right) may very well be
the most advanced wind turbine blade set ever produced and successfully tested. ft. Because of this. It used vacuum infusion and active resin transport. with owner Bill Leighty of Juneau. Leighty of Waterloo.Here are some interesting facts relating to the Storm Master and its flexible rotor: The low speed gear sets show some wear from 20+ years of operation.
Top Right: 2004 .