Wind turbine blades encased in ice

Many dogs enjoy getting wet or, at the very least, do not seem to mind being wet. In severe weather conditions, the blades on wind turbines can become encased in ice. The icing of the blades has been known about for many years and the aerospace industry has manufactured propellers with in-built heating elements to melt this ice build-up.

Currently, there are two different approaches being considered for the removal of ice from the wind turbine blades that are not too dissimilar in concept to how a dog can be dried. The quicker way is a mechanical/physical option, which can be compared to a dog’s natural tendency to shake itself (typically whilst standing next to you), where in-built vibrators shake the ice from the blade. This mechanical/physical option can take around 20 s to be effective. The second option is to heat the turbine blade, which can be compared to using a hairdryer on a wet dog. The time required for this operation can be up to 20 min and a method of inputting heat is required. The additional weight of the heating element on the blades is significant and is considered both costly and inefficient. If you have tried drying a dog with a hairdryer you will also agree that it is quite inefficient, especially as the dog prefers the physical method and can make an additional mess when you are trying to work. A dog shaking itself dry will not bite but one being dried with a hairdryer may. Likewise, the current used to heat the blades can also be dangerous.

The natural world still has many lessons to teach us.

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