Vertical-axis turbines 'could join wind farms'

Offshore vertical-axis wind turbines (VAWTs) could viably take up residence next to traditional horizontal models in certain deepwater areas off Europe, according to a study commissioned by the UK Energy Technologies Institute (ETI).

Offshore vertical-axis wind turbines (VAWTs) could viably take up residence next to traditional horizontal models in certain deepwater areas off Europe, according to a study commissioned by the UK Energy Technologies Institute (ETI).

The £2.8m ($4.6m) Nova project — run by a consortium of Wind Power Limited (WPL), OTM Consulting, Cranfield University, the University of Strathclyde, Sheffield University, James Ingram & Associates, QinetiQ, and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science — examined the technical, economic and environmental feasibility of WPL's Aerogenerator concept.

Launched in 2009, Nova focused on whether VAWTs could offer significantly cheaper electricity due to their size and scale, as well as simpler maintenance compared to conventional turbines, when installed in water depths of 60 metres and more.

"Traditional horizontal-axis offshore wind turbines have adapted the existing [onshore] technology. The Nova feasibility project is a radical concept, which demonstrates that vertical-axis machines are technically feasible and could be used in certain circumstances," says ETI chief executive David Clarke. "There are benefits in terms of the design of the turbines and accessibility at sea, which could help reduce the cost of energy, although it is still early days in terms of delivering a full-scale prototype."

A new phase of the project will involve building and testing a VAWT demonstrator at sea. WPL has appointed engineer Arup to manage development of a 10MW Aerogenerator.

It is expected that a first Aerogenerator, which has a wingspan of 275 metres and mimics a turning sycamore seed, could be installed offshore by 2013-14.

Nova is one of a trio of offshore wind projects shepherded by the ETI. The first, the Deepwater project, which looked at the feasibility and costs of generating electricity using offshore turbines mounted on a floating, tension-legged platform, in water 70-300 metres deep, was wrapped up last year.

Helm Wind, which is assessing the complete design system for an offshore turbine array and looking for improvements in installation, design, aerodynamics, electrical systems, control and maintenance, will be completed shortly.

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