Some turbines which claim to be innovative are anything but

Posted Friday 21st of March 2014 at 15:52

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This is not a poke at innovation but there's no doubt that some of the new entrants in the wind turbine market with innovative designs make bold claims that just don't stack up.

This excellent article published in www.gizmag.com called 'Dodgy wind? Why 'innovative' turbines are often anything but' exposes some of the claims that you are likely to meet - that they exceed the Betz limit of 59.3% efficiency it's been tested when it's still a design concept or an old technology pretending to be new.

McMurdo antarctic station with LE-v50 vertical turbineA lot of 'new' wind turbine technology appears to be based around vertical axis designs. Whilst vertical axis turbines of any type do have one or two advantages and are popular with architects their 'bang per buck' is simply no where near that of a traditional horizontal axis turbine.

In fact the newest member to our family of small wind turbines the vertical axis LE-v150 is based on the 100 year old Savonius design. We don't claim its innovative and we don't claim it will generate loads of power because the turbine is mainly based upon the principles of drag (rather than the principles of lift like a horizontal axis turbine). For most applications power output is far too low but in extreme wind environments (and there's been a lot of that around recently) this turbine is ideal for off-shore environments powering monitoring/telemetry equipment on offshore wind farms lighthouses or on buoys and masts. It has also found a place in the marine market for silently and discretely trickle charging yacht batteries.

The LE-v150 and its smaller brother the LE-v50 have plenty of applications on land again in exposed locations where the weather is extreme. As this case study on the McMurdo research station in Antartica demonstrates the LE-v50 wind turbine is capable of delivering up to 80 watts of power into battery banks whilst being able to endure persistent wind speeds in excess of 125mph.

So where do we go for innovation in the small wind turbine sector? Here at Leading Edge we consider the state of the art small wind turbine technology to be something analogous to bicycle design. Bicycles were originally designed with all sorts of weird and wonderful wheel configurations - just like small wind turbines today! But ultimately a single effective design was discovered and then this concept evolved for the next 120 years. Small wind turbine technology is currently like bicycle design in the late 1800's.

Just like a bike from the 1800's compared to a modern day racing bike there is plenty of room for the technical development of small wind turbines - but it will probably be based around a tried and tested configuration.