New turbine research shows potential for jobs, efficiency and noise reduction

We refer to wind turbines as a mature technology – they are, and they are well proven as a reliable energy source as many countries, and even South Australia, prove by integrating 20% wind energy into their grid.

That doesn’t mean further innovation is possible, any more than the “mature” (century-old) automobile design relying on an internal combustion engine can’t be surpassed (as they now are, by electric vehicles).

As the renewable energy industry grows, we could see a huge creative engineering potential unleashed. Here’s three innovations currently being projected for turbine design, starting right here in Victoria – Geelong.

1. The Eco-whisper turbine

Geelong engineering company Austeng is testing a 20kW, near-silent turbine designed by Renewable Energy Solutions Australia, that would ideally be used on factory roofs to offset their energy use (but only interstate and abroad, if the state government keep their disastrous anti-wind turbine laws!).

The following is from an article by Kim Waters in the Geelong Independent, 15/7/11.

The Renewable Energy Solutions Australia (RESA) design aims to supply energy for factories, warehouses, ports, airports and schools.

Eco-Whisper turbine
Eco-Whisper turbine

RESA business development manager Michael Le Messurier said the 23-metre “virtually silent” turbine was rated at 20kW.

“The Eco Whisper turbine is unique with its 30 blades extending outward to from a 6.5-metre diameter central hub,” he said.

“The advanced dynamic slew drive eliminates requirement for a tail, allowing the turbine to operate in high wind speeds while facing the wind full-time. This avoids turn-away losses and results in increased power over longer time periods.”

Mr Le Messurier said Austeng was building a commercial prototype for on-site testing.

The company chose Austeng based on Industry Capability Network recommendation and its track record in “high-level projects”.

Mr Le Messurier said the turbine was also suitable for rural zones around Geelong due to the region’s “abundant wind resource”.

“It’s well-suited to urban development sites such as office buildings, apartments, industry parks, shopping centres and universities”.

If this technology goes ahead it could be great news for the regional economy – if the new wind farm planning laws don’t scuttle it. Geelong Trades Hall secretary Tim Gooden wrote in the Geelong Advertiser:

We have great companies in Geelong that are moving to deliver high-quality manufactured products for the renewable energy sector.

Austeng is currently building the first silent wind-powered energy plant and IXL Blackwell is gearing up to supply solar power components to Western Australian power stations.

This is just the beginning of what is possible if the Australian Government moves in a positive direction now to ensure the billions of dollars to be spent on renewable energy are not all used on just buying it in from overseas. It would be almost pointless to have renewable energy by 2020 but no manufacturing industry and jobs to use the power.

2. The Wind Lens

A new idea from Japanese researchers is to concentrate the wind passing through the turbine, giving rise to the analogy of “lens”. If Japan moves away from nuclear energy and into renewables, that will be a huge boost for the industry globally.  Clean Technica reports:

Professor Prof. Yuji Ohya of the Kyushu University research institute for applied mechanics (RIAM) has been working with a team to improve the efficiency of wind turbines. Combining an inlet shroud, a diffuser, and a brim into a wind lens, power output has been improved by a factor of 2 to 5 times in several experiments. Turbine noise is also decreased.

The Wind Lens works by creating an area of low pressure behind the turbine that essentially sucks the wind through the turbine, increasing effective wind speed. As wind power is proportional to the wind speed cubed, the wind lens changes the fluid dynamics around the turbine to increase its power.

(… )

The RIAM researchers anticipate the best use of wind turbines is offshore, where winds tend to be more constant and speeds higher. In an effort to promote the Wind Lens applications offshore, they have also designed a hexagon floating platform that could be used in conjunction with the wind lens turbine technology.

Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/13abk)

3. Double rotors

Finally, the following is from windpower engineering & development:

Airgenesis DesignA novel turbine design uses two rotors of equal diameter, one each at opposite ends of a nacelle, to capture wind at greater capacity factors than conventional designs can do, say developer Airgenesis LLC (airgenesiswind.com). The developer says the rotors, offset from each other by 60°, will be turning at low speeds of 2.5 to 3.3 rpm, and are capable of producing 51 kW in wind speeds of about 5 mph. With a maximum of 3.3 rpm, it minimizes the possibility of harming wildlife. The low speeds also minimize the danger of ice throws. “All the high rpm speeds are inside the turbine,” explains company spokesman Clayton Troxell. At a wind speed of 15 mph, the design will be producing over 1 MW with a maximum possible output of 10.7 MW at 32 mph. The design has passed engineering proof of concept and is ready for licensing. Plans are already in the works to build and test a 10.7-MW unit by next year.

The Airgenesis design uses two rotors, one at each end of a nacelle. Gearboxes and generators mount at ground level for easier access.

There is more to the new design than two rotors. “Most of the heavy equipment is mounted at the base of the turbine so maintenance work can be simplified. Furthermore, using multiple generators provides the capability of replacing generators without shutting down the turbine. Clipper Windpower uses a design of four generators for similar advantages but mounts them in the nacelle. Troxell says many details covered by several patents are being held confidential. The design is said to target a constant electrical output at low wind speeds, conditions in which traditional wind turbines cannot operate.

9 thoughts on “New turbine research shows potential for jobs, efficiency and noise reduction

  1. ‘but only interstate and abroad, if the state government keep their disastrous anti-wind turbine laws’Ben get over it the laws have been passed for the betterment of rural residents, I really do not think that a turbine especially a 20kw one in an industrial zone is going to be an issue. A small domestic scale turbine is hardly equivalent to 2-3MW turbine on the end of an 80-100m tall tower is equivalent. Your bleating is tiresome and mischevious!

    1. I haven’t checked what size turbine is subject to these restrictions, happy to be proven wrong. It may be allowed in industrial zoned areas. It is 6m diameter and a reasonable size tower – I had assumed it would be covered by these laws. See http://resau.com.au/main/page_ecowhisper.html for pics of erecting one. I’ll look up what turbine size this applies to.

      1. I am guessing that if an area is zoned industrial they would be OK. I also have had a thought about wind farm syndrome. Some people are very sensitive to vibration and large scale turbines which have their foundations onto the bedrock could cause enough vibration to resonate through foundations particularly of concrete slab homes. I know of an instance in Prague in the 1960’s where a new power station was built and when the turbines were switched on they caused almost undectable vibrations to be felt in the maternity hospital next door and causing nausea and surprisingly some women could not breast feed their babies. The power station was switched off and things returned to normal. Eventually they raised the turbines and placed them on thousands of small springs which dampened the vibrations and the problem was solved. Like seasickness only some people are affected.

  2. For something large like a power station, it’s not hard to imagine people being affected if they are close by (within a couple of hundred metres) but it defies reality to suggest as a certain Dr/medical director does that wind turbines could affect somebody 10 km away. Particularly when millions of people live under aircraft flight paths without apparent effect. Ditto for people living alongside rail lines, highways etc. For her claim to be true, either our understanding of physics is all wrong or the sounds/vibrations emanating from a turbine would have to be so great the thing would shake to bits in a very short time.

    Even so, these recent designs demonstrate the wind turbine folks are continuing development and looking for improved efficiencies. That has to be a good thing – who knows, it might even convince Big Ted that wind turbines can and do produce useful amounts of electrical energy…

  3. The sound from aircraft, trains, highways etc. is quite different to that from wind turbines, so I cannot regard this comment as valid.

    On the question of turbine design, It’s pleasing to see R&D producing designs which may prove viable when better developed.

    Current turbine design is really only a modern-day version of the age-old windmill. Just as Dyson came up with a new, radical design for the vacuum cleaner (and more recently a hi-tech domestic fan, albeit at exhorbitant cost) so wind turbines will undoubtedly come of age at some time in the future.

    Until that happens, we need sensible planning laws a la the Baillieu government to protect the majority of the population.

  4. “Sensible planning laws” that basically mean no wind farm developer can work in the state? Why don’t you just state your case honestly, that you don’t want any wind turbines?

    The direct effect of the new planning laws is to ensure we continue burning our way to fossil fuel armageddon. That’s not “protection”.

  5. There are over 1000 turbines already approved for construction until they are built I do not think you need worry about future proposals. You really seem like you are whining more noisily than a turbine. PS the turbines in these designs are only 23m tall on a 20 height to blade tip basis my preferred option for a buffer distance they would only require less than a 500m buffer

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