Outside the box…

Timlynn Babitsky | Issues: Strategies & Tactics,Too Darn Tall! | Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

by Timlynn Babitsky
Complaints around a wind project often focus on the “ugliness” of a tall tower with blades on top, and how it will spoil someone’s view. From the massive four-bladed windmills we see in The Netherlands, to the many bladed water-pumping windmills we still see across rural America, we have come to think of a wind turbine as being the stereotypical Horizontal Axis Wind Turbine (HAWT). If turbine design is a resistance issue for your project, there ARE other turbine designs out there to consider.

Vertical Axis Wind Turbines (VAWTs) are one design alternative to the Horizontal Axis Wind Turbines (HAWTs) – the tower mounted turbines with which we’re more familiar.

If you are not familiar with the VAWT design You Tube has a couple of good videos to check out. Click on the links below for short video clips of VAWTs in action. These are only a sample to get you thinking out of the box horizontally:

Advantages of the VAWT design include:

  • Can be sited:
    • on mesas, hilltops, ridgelines and passes which often have higher and more powerful winds near the ground.
    • on rooftops in urban environments.
    • where laws do not permit tall structures.
  • Can be much less expensive than HAWT design.
  • Does not need to be pointed into the wind, can turn regardless of wind direction.
  • Stronger in high winds.
  • Easier to maintain because most of their moving parts are located near the ground.
  • Can potentially be much larger than HAWT’s.
  • Newer carbon composite blades are lightweight and easier to install.

Disadvantages of the VAWT design include:

  • Generally not as efficient as HAWTs (but new VAWT designs are addressing this issue).
  • Most need to be installed on a relatively flat piece of land.
  • Some sites could be too steep for a VAWT.
  • Most have low starting torque; may require energy to start the blades turning.
  • Changing out parts on some designs requires dismantling the whole structure.

With the global warming focus on alternative energy, Google’s investment in green energy, and the frenzy of creative innovation buzzing in this industry, the VAWT videos above on YouTube are being joined weekly by newer and perhaps more viable designs. Click on these links to see more:

Before you commit your project to HAWT tower turbine design, do your homework. See if alternative designs might make your project much more acceptable to resistors.

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