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November 23rd, 2009

Vertical axis turbines for low-wind-speed areas

Published on November 23rd, 2009 | By: pwray@ceramics.org

Back in June we reported on a futuristic design of wind power generators: vertical axis turbines.

Now researchers at the University of Virgina are developing a smaller, more efficient wind turbine uniquely designed to generate power in low-wind-speed areas. And they are building these turbines with a vertical axis, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The group is still seeking funding to create a full-size model that will have blades that extend 100 feet in diameter and spin along a vertical axis. Most wind turbines in operation today have much larger blades that extend up to 200 feet and spin along a horizontal axis.

“Most of the larger turbines are set for 14 to 15 miles per hour,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is get something that will work effectively in the 11 to 12 mph range.”

The design also will feature a turbine shaft levitated with magnets, which will reduce friction and consequently increase efficiency, says UVA mechanical engineering professor Jim Durand. Durand is also co-director of the Jefferson Wind Energy Institute

The overall design, Durand said, “is a combination of things that are aimed and optimized for low wind speeds.”

Paul Allaire, and UVA professor and the other co-director of the JWEI, will bring to the project his expertise on magnetic bearings. Allaire told the school’s newspaper, the Cavalier, in October that the goal is to first operate a 8-feet tall scale model in a wind tunnel that generates wind up to about 12 miles an hour. He said model was mainly a proof-of-concept step. “It’s very small and won’t generate much energy, so the plan is to build a 150-foot version, [which] would look like a cell tower.” The ultimate goal is to develop a system that can of produce 50 kilowatts of power.

Even with growing interest in wind power worldwide, the U.S. market for home wind turbines remains small, less than 0.002 percent of the national market. According to the American Wind Energy Association, however, this small wind turbine market is expected to grow dramatically over the next four years – from a total of 80 installed megawatts in 2008 to 1,700 MW in 2013. Already, installations in 2008 – 17.3 MW – marked a 78 percent increase over 2007.


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