British company Windpower has always thought big. A couple of years ago
, they came up with the design for their Aerogenerator, a 144 meter Vertical Axis Wind Turbine (VAWT) that would generate up to 5 MW of electricity. Their brand new design (the Aerogenerator X) looks a lot different (it combines elements of both horizontal and vertical wind turbines) and can generate even more electricity (10 MW). The new Aerogenerator X has two arms sticking out from its base in a V-shape, with rigid sails at the end of each arm. As the wind blows, the sails and the arms act like airfoils, which generates lift to turn the structure at a rate of about 3 revolutions per minute. Windpower says that the design is based on sycamore seeds, which are also known as helicopter seeds – as they fall from the tree, they spin around and slowly fall to the ground.
There are several claimed benefits from this design. To reduce stress, the generator and the electronics are mounted in the base – this makes maintenance easier too, which is handy for an offshore turbine. Since the stress on the blades is reduced, they can be made lighter and bigger, which makes the turbine more efficient and able to generate even more electricity. And since the turbine goes out instead of up (like with most VAWT’s), overall visibility against the horizon is reduced.
The group building the new Aerogenerator X (Windpower, engineering firm Arup, Rolls Royce, BP, Shell and architects at Grimshaw and academics from Cranfield University) want to have the first full sized Aerogenerator X up and running by 2013.
You can read about the Aegenerator X, along with some other ideas for large offshore wind turbines at the Guardian.