When you think of wind power, you probably think of the giant, elegant, slow-spinning wind turbine towers that cover natural landscapes like oversized white pinwheels missing a few blades. Indeed, those wind turbines are so cost-effective at generating electricity that they are often a much cheaper option for new electricity generation than anything else — coal, nuclear, natural gas, or even solar. Still, those giant, white, distant cousins of pinwheels typically cost a fortune — as in, well over $1 million. They aren’t for small-scale off-gridders or for putting on the roof of an office building or factory.
Solar power has gotten so cheap that it is typically the first option for someone to consider when looking to live off the grid or stick a power plant on his or her roof, but solar isn’t the only game in town. In situations where a person has good wind resources and/or limited solar energy potential, small wind turbines can still be a smart choice.
The small wind turbine market is dominated by what are essentially miniature versions of those giant wind turbines discussed above, as they tend to offer the most bang for the buck, but in some cases, a buyer may prefer the design and advantages of vertical-axis wind turbines.
One new company in this vertical-axis wind turbine (VAWT) market is Be-Wind*, and it is also aiming to make this option more efficient and, presumably, more cost effective. It has three vertical-axis wind turbines on the market: the EOW-100, EOW-200, and EOW-300. I saw, in person, similar VAWTs on the roof of a super-efficient Greenpeace building in Germany last year, but Be-Wind’s VAWT design is unique. It is the only dual-axis vertical wind system with a deflector (diversion) shield on the market today.
This design originated in the aerospace industry, and Be-Wind claims that it is “the highest performing, most efficient, most reliable small Urban wind turbine in the market today.” Independent tests haven’t been implemented to vindicate this, but this is what the company has concluded.
Explaining a little bit as to why the VAWT market is as tiny as it is today, Be-Wind also writes:
- All vertical wind systems on the market today, regardless of their design and specifications are very inefficient because of the process in which they produce rotation and hence, convert the wind’s power generation capability into electricity.
- The same wind that creates rotation on any vertical system also creates resistance, as shown below. Because the parabolic drive side has a larger volume of airflow and force, it creates rotation, but rotation with resistance.
Ah, so just block that counterproductive wind coming in on the wrong side, right? Well, have you ever tried to block wind from hitting a small section of something while coming full force right next to it? Yeah, you know what I’m talking about.
Be-Wind goes on:
There are many factors to determine the optimal position of this deflector to enhance the performance of the wind turbine; failure to determine the optimal position only degrades the system performance. This analysis was one of the many considerations in the design and development of the unique and patented EOW wind turbine.
Since the wind was being diverted to both sides of the deflector, it seemed intuitive and logical to place a second turbine on the opposing side and modeling and testing showed that this was not only possible but also optimal for performance.
I’m not an engineer qualified to evaluate how all of this translates into cost per kWh, but the company has a lot more information published on how the system works, and you can contact Michael Berdan for more info:
- firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
- Cell: 214-649-4862
*This article was kindly sponsored by Be-Wind.