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New energies 21/10/2020

The New Generation Of Wind Turbines

With overall demand for renewable energy steadily rising around the world, the acceleration of wind power adoption stands above the rest.

Researchers and experts around the world are working on new ways to harness power from the wind with whole new kinds of turbines.

Wind’s share in the renewable energy sector has grown from 19% in 2018 to 23% in 2019 as next-generation technologies are augmenting both efficiency and reliability. In recent years, wind turbines in particular have become taller, built with longer and lighter rotor blades. But now researchers and experts around the world are working on new ways to harness power from the wind with whole new kinds of turbines.

Here are three innovative projects that caught our attention :

Japan’s hyper resistant turbines

Countries in the Pacific region are regularly at risk of typhoons. Two notably violent examples in recent years were Typhoon Hayian in 2013 and Typhoon Hagibis in 2019, which left thousands of people without power for weeks. In regions and islands where getting a reliable electricity supply is already a challenge, natural disasters aggravate the situation. Responding to this reality, Tokyo-based startup Challenergy is designing wind turbines engineered to withstand high wind speeds, which can continue to generate power during natural disasters.

  • The company relies on a radically different design. Instead of the traditional propeller-like blades operating along a horizontal axis, the turbines designed by Challenergy use cylinders and operate on a vertical axis — all of this to exploit a physics phenomenon known as the Magnus effect.
  • The turbines allow adjustment to any wind direction, a control of the power generation in accordance with the wind speed. There is also less noise generated than conventional blade turbines. The robustness has already been successfully tested in Ishigaki, Okinawa, where a 10KW version recorded its first electricity generation during a typhoon.
  • Challenergy’s turbines cost around $250,000, which is more expensive than smaller standard wind turbines with comparable power. But for sites that often experience high wind speeds, such turbines might be the best option as other standard turbines would not be operational in such conditions.


    (crédit : Challenergy)

Power your home for 25 years

Wind accounts for 7.2% of power generated in the United States, mostly through the use of commercial wind farms. Icelandic renewable energy company IceWind is betting on a completely different and smaller model... for homeowners. The company is launching an innovative six-bladed wind turbine that can generate consistent power for more than 25 years for homes in the United States.

  • The company’s latest model, called Freya, operates on a vertical axis, meaning that it is omni-directional and can take wind from any direction. It features three inner blades and three outer blades, which are safer for home installation and for local birds than propeller-like blades. They are also less noisy.
  • Made from stainless steel and aluminum, the wind turbine is designed to withstand winds of more than 140 miles (225km) per hour and to last and generate power with negligible maintenance cost, as the turbine is also sealed against ice, dust, water and dirt. It is an ideal option for off-grid locations such as homes, cabins or barns situated in coastal, windy and cold regions.
  • The Freya starts at $3,200, though one is not enough to power an entire house, as it would only provide about 150 to 200 watts depending on the winds. IceWind is working on a larger-scale model that could be capable of generating 7 to 12 times that power output


    (crédit : IceWind)

Tiny turbine powered by light breezes

Most of the wind around us cannot power traditional wind turbines as it is not strong enough. But what if it was possible to harness the power of a light breeze? Researchers in China have designed the B-Teng, a “tiny wind turbine” that could potentially power electronics by collecting the light breeze whipped up by a walk.

  • The device is not technically a turbine but a nanogenerator made of two thin strips of plastic flapping together inside a tube. This generates an electric charge (the triboelectric effect) that can be captured and stored.
  • The nanogenerator can generate power from wind as weak as 3.6 miles (5.7 km) per hour and has a wind-to-energy conversion efficiency of 3.23%, which dwarfs previous attempts of wind energy scavenging. It also has low manufacturing costs thanks to the cheap materials it’s built from.
  • The B-Teng can only currently power small gadgets such as 100 LED lights and temperature sensors, but the team is planning to build a larger and a smaller version to provide a constant power supply.
  • The researchers also hope to create a larger and more powerful version of the device to produce 1,000 watts, so that it could rival standard wind turbines and be used in areas where the latter are not practical, such as mountains or the top of buildings.

ENGIE Eye: Towards a 100% recyclable blade

ENGIE has partnered with French research center IRT Jules Verne, LM Wind Power and other industrial companies for the ZEBRA (Zero wastE Blade ReseArch) project to design and build the first 100% recyclable turbine blade.

  • LM Wind Power will design and manufacture two prototype blades using Elium®, a thermoplastic resin developed by Arkema, known for its recyclable properties.
  • This will enable the consortium to test and validate the behavior of the material as well as the feasibility for full-scale industrial production of the turbine.
  • The project was launched for a 42-month period, with a budget of €18.5 million.
  • The project led by the BU France Renewable Energy was awarded for the ENGIE Innovation Trophies 2020


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