One of the most significant developments in last few decades has been a spurt in innovations for the production of energy from renewable sources. The vertical axis wind turbine ( VAWT) is a recent example of this trend. Technologically, the VAWT provides some advantage over the traditionally used horizontal axis wind turbine (HAWT) and new researcher has shown that it can produce more energy even when the speed of wind is low and less area is available for the wind power plant. This is so because the rotor shaft of the VAWT is installed vertically and works even when the turbine is not pointed towards the wind.
However, there are some disadvantages as well. Here we will analyze all the issues related to VAWT in detail.
Research has shown that VAWT could increase the efficiency of the wind farm by almost six to nine times as compared to the HAWT. The use of VAWT also decreases the total demand of land for the wind farm because they can be placed close to each other and do not require the erection of huge towers for mounting the turbines.
The VAWT can be mounted closer to the ground, even at the height of 10-meters, and the turbine generator and the gear box can be placed lower on the ground. This not only reduces the maintenance cost but is also less harmful for birds and provides no interruptions to the radar systems and airplanes. It can also be used at sites where wind directions vary rapidly.
In comparison, the traditional HAWT requires large amount of land as the wind turbines are placed at a distance to avoid the intersections of the wakes of adjacent turbines. In present times, taller wind turbines are erected for accessing wind with greater speed to overcome this aerodynamic constraint. But still, it costs much more and has visual, radar and acoustic and environmental impacts.
Can this be better
Despite certain advantages, it has been said that the VAWT do not match the scale of the HAWT. Researchers would have to find the solutions of following limitations of the VAWT for making it a better option for wind power generation and wider applicability.
Less efficient than those produced by horizontal axis wind turbines
The energy-producing capacity of the existing designs of VAWTs is much less as compared to the HAWT. This is so because the height of the VAWT is less and it cannot reap the benefits of higher wind speed at greater altitudes. It cannot be mounted on high towers. Moreover, the VAWT requires some external energy for initiating the movement of the blades of turbine because it has very low starting torque. Also, it needs additional support in the form of wires for keeping the structure intact.
Can this be avoided?
Yes. A new research by John O. Dabiri of the California Institute of Technology this year has shown that many problems associated with the VAWTs could be overcome by the reconfiguration of turbine placement in the wind farms and with the use of new counter-rotating VAWTs.
They would also minimize many challenges associated with the establishment of large HAWTs, such as the cost and logistics of manufacture, installation and transportation. Also, massive structures for holding the turbine on top could be built. It will also reduce the downward thrust experienced by the wired structure.
Mounted closer to the ground, less wind speed
As said above, the VAWT are mounted closer to the ground and receive less wind speed. Also, it has been found that the blades of VAWTs are prone to fatigue and sometimes the blades broke apart, thus stalling the entire process of power productions.
Why are we so critical?
The pace of development of technologies for the generation of electricity from wind has been very slow. It started in the 19th century in Denmark but till the 1970s only small wind turbines for charging purposes were available. Considering this along with the ever growing need of ‘green’ energy, we ought to be critical of all new innovations that promise some thing better than the past.
If the new research is to be believed, the VAWTs could herald a new era of ‘flexible’ wind farms that could be used in areas, including your neighborhood, where wind farms have not been traditionally established. It would also boost the recent efforts put by many governments of the world for tapping the natural energy of wind. As, many large scale wind farms have been established in many cities of the world in recent times.