Vertical Axis Wind Turbines Reduce Maintenance Costs and Require Less Space

2015 saw the biggest agreement of all time becoming ratified. A trade deal? No. A peace agreement? No. The decision was one on climate change.

A large number of countries who are altogether responsible for producing 55% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emission have now committed to the Paris Agreement. The pledge, agreed upon at the COP21 Climate Conference, includes a challenging target of limiting global warming to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.

Wind power is a key renewable technology that can help countries achieve net-zero carbon emissions. Image credit: Shutterstock / Pla2na

Now the tough work begins. Many environmental experts claim that the Paris Agreement is a case of too little, too late, and innovative solutions are required to help countries achieve zero net carbon emissions.

Wind power – a pillar of the renewable future

The Solutions Project has recently compiled a series of projections for the optimum renewable energy mixes for countries around the world in 2050. They have predicted that wind energy will play a vital role in the future to achieve certain targets. For example, a potential mix of renewables in the UK included onshore and offshore wind sources with 20% and 60% ratios, respectively.

A significant quantity of renewable energy is produced by wind farms. In 2015, 48.3% of the UK’s generated renewable energy can from wind and a report in February 2016 from the European Wind Energy Association has discovered that wind now has a 15.6% stake in the EU total power capacity.

The wind energy sector is blowing up a storm around the world and China is now becoming one of the greatest investor in wind energy. In 2015 alone, China was responsible for the installation of half of the world’s new global wind capacity.

Horizontal vs vertical power generation – why does it matter?

Amongst the revolution sweeping the wind energy industry, many companies are competing to produce turbines with the greatest durability and efficiencies. Horizontal axis turbines are the most thought of when wind power is mentions, but an alternative is available in the form of vertical axis turbines. These turbines revolve around a vertical rotor shaft and they come with their own set of benefits.

Because the shaft in vertical axis turbines doesn’t need to rotate to catch cross-directional breezes, these they require fewer components than their horizontal counterparts. Also, the important components are lower down in a vertical turbine, which allows for easier maintenance. They have the benefit of being suitable for densely populated residential areas and are an efficient energy source in cities.

A new era for vertical turbines

The expectations in some large industry projects have fallen short of the ideal vertical axis turbine. However, this has not deterred academic engineers and mathematicians who have been helping to solve the problem. The researchers in one UK university have successfully produced a competitor to the eggbeater, Archimedes screw and sycamore leaf vertical turbines.

The UK-based researchers used a simple and cheap solution where several paddle-like vanes are stacked on top of each other. This negates the need for quick reactions to changing wind direction. If one of the vanes were to fail, the others would continue to spin reducing the amount of regular maintenance required. These turbines also have potential applications in marine energy generation.

The researchers are actively looking for industry collaboration to develop their vertical wind turbine into a commercial solution. Now that the Paris Agreement has officially taken effect, there is no better time to invest in this promising renewable technology.

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