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Risk is on the Wind

Periodic commentary about the wind energy industry, focusing on news of interest involving wind turbines, wind farms, wind energy projects as well as associated technology and social/political issues. Brought to you by Valentine, your source for superior insurance for wind turbines and wind farms worldwide.

Always More Innovations

Viktor Lawryniuk - Friday, October 28, 2011

The Law of Accelerating Returns is alive and well in the wind power industry. Just this week I noticed the following:

A “virtually silent” small wind turbine suitable for both urban and rural applications being released to the world this week by Australia’s Renewable Energy Solutions Australia Holdings Ltd. (mercifully they also go by RESA), the Eco Whisper Turbine stands 21 meters in height with 6.5 meter blades and generates 20kW. I’d be happy to see one over my house and just slightly less happy if my neighbors followed suit. Judging by the angle of the row of poplar trees outside, today would be a great day to be wind powered.

The touted silent operation is due to their “unique cowl/ring that prevents air from spilling off the blades.” I’m not sure if the same cowl is what works to minimize bird casualties, but they tout that as well as lower start-up speeds. Also, it wasn’t clear if these will be marketed outside of Australia anytime soon.

The article I sourced this from also has some photos and videos if you want to see more.

Did you know that ConocoPhilips has been awarding an annual energy prize for four years now? And, no, it’s not for the most creative uses of petrochemicals. The 2011 ConocoPhilips Energy Prize, a joint initiative with Penn State University, awarded $125,000 to Ben Glass and Adam Rein of Altaeros Energies for their “Aerostat Platform for Rapid Deployment Airborne Wind Turbine.” The basic idea here is to clear your view of the turbine by hoisting it 2,000 feet straight-up. Besides making for cleaner sight lines the concept also leverages the stronger, more consistent wind up high. A floating turbine might also be useful in remote areas where the ground infrastructure is deficient. In any case, it’s a cool idea and not the only one being floated out there. In fact, there’s already a group called the Airborne Wind Energy Consortium just for those that like to spin up high.

A hat-tip to the EnergyWise blog for bringing this to my attention.

New Design for Micro Wind Turbines?

Viktor Lawryniuk - Thursday, February 03, 2011

Did you even realize people were considering building micro wind turbines? Picture this: a wind turbine with 25-centimeter-long paper blades generating less than 10 watts of energy that could be used to recharge a mobile phone or light LEDs. What’s more is that the design was inspired by dragonfly wings! According to a February 2, 2011 article in New Scientist, “the way a dragonfly remains stable in flight is being mimicked to develop micro wind turbines that can withstand gale-force winds.”

The research was conducted by Akira Obata of Nippon Bunri University in Oita, Japan and focused on the aerodynamic properties of the swirling vortices created by insect’s wings. Obata discovered that his tested models showed smooth flow with little drag at low speeds. He and his colleagues used their insights to develop a micro wind turbine with paper blades that have bumps on their surface similar to what creates the dragonfly vortices. As the tested wind speeds increased (to 145 kilometers per hour!) the blades bent into a cone effectively disengaging the mechanism. Large turbines require either computerized systems or other special designs to cope with high wind speeds which otherwise could damage the generator.

Kudos to Obata and company for the clever implementation! I’m imagining a row of these micro turbines unobtrusively adding to energy independence. For the full article, please go to:

Want Your Own Small Wind PPA? Call XZERES!

Viktor Lawryniuk - Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) have long been used to finance cleantech projects. First, a financial strong buyer agrees to purchase the power produced by a new installation (often solar) for a multi-year period at a fixed and discounted price. The project developer then leverages that future cash flow to obtain financing for the project. Everybody wins. Unless, that is, you are too small to play the game.

Now Oregon-based XZERES Wind Corp wants to tempt you into having them install their small wind turbines at your site (residential or commercial) at no cost to you other than your agreeing to a long-term PPA at a discount to utility rates. Sounds like a can’t miss to me!

What’s the downside? Well, there is the long-term aspect of it. Not sure what happens to the PPA if you sell your property. XZERES could always remove the turbine and install it elsewhere. Perhaps there is a provision in the PPA to transfer to a new owner? Also, there are the zoning issues to deal with. I don’t think we will be seeing wind turbines in urban areas very often due to safety and clearance issues as well as the ever-present NIMBYs and aesthetics arbiters. And then there is the question of wind, as in do you have enough? XZERES quotes an average wind speed of 12 mph as a benchmark for its turbines.

For the entire press release follow this link to the XZERES website.

A hat-tip goes to EarthTechling for alerting us to this program.