The winds of change have blown VAWTs’ way once more.
Sandia National Laboratories’ wind energy researchers are re-evaluating vertical axis wind turbines (VAWTs) to help solve some of the problems of generating energy from offshore breezes.
Though VAWTs have been around since the earliest days of wind energy research at Sandia and elsewhere, VAWT architecture could transform offshore wind technology.
The economics of offshore windpower are different from land-based turbines, due to installation and operational challenges. VAWTs offer three big advantages that could reduce the cost of wind energy: a lower turbine center of gravity; reduced machine complexity; and better scalability to very large sizes.
A lower center of gravity means improved stability afloat and lower gravitational fatigue loads.
Additionally, the drivetrain on a VAWT is at or near the surface, potentially making maintenance easier and less time-consuming. Fewer parts, lower fatigue loads and simpler maintenance all lead to reduced maintenance costs.
Elegant in their simplicity
Sandia is conducting the research under a 2011 Department of Energy (DOE) solicitation for advanced rotor technologies for U.S. offshore windpower generation. The five-year, $4.1 million project began in January of this year.
Wind Energy Technologies manager Dave Minster said Sandia’s wind energy program is aimed at addressing the national energy challenge of increasing the use of low-carbon power generation.
“VAWTs are elegant in terms of their mechanical simplicity,” said Josh Paquette, one of Sandia’s two principal investigators on the project. “They have fewer parts because they don’t need a control system to point them toward the blowing wind to generate power.”
These characteristics fit the design constraints for offshore wind: the high cost of support structures; the need for simple, reliable designs; and economic scales that demand larger machines than current land-based designs.
via Sandia National Laboratories
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