The mainstream wind establishment has a hard time getting excited about vertical turbines - they've been around for too long without a major market breakthrough. But right now it's a bit of the big wind versus little wind question. Vertical wind turbines can have some noise-cutting, cost-cutting and reliability advantages over traditional spinning windmills and may be perfect for in-city wind electricity generation, as well as personal backyard installations. And Ericsson must think vertical has promise, too, as yesterday they announced they are going to try running their award-winning Tower Tube cell towers with Swedish-based Vertical Wind's four-bladed rotating turbine.
Traditional turbines versus vertical whirligigs
Ericsson's move is probably a smart one - the towers have won awards because they are aesthetically more pleasing than traditional cell phone base stations, and they use less materials and less energy than older stations. The effort to make stations run on both solar technology and wind power is an added benefit, especially in the developing world.
While Ericsson's embrace of vertical wind won't be enough to give the technology a big breakthrough, a partnership of German-headquartered utility E.ON, Sweden's Vertical Wind and Falkenberg Energi might have a better shot at it. E.ON lags far behind its rival Vattenfall at wind development, but the company seems to be convinced that by backing vertical turbines it can help shave the price off turbines by as much as 20 percent. And E.ON thinks the vertical turbines have promise for offshore installations.
The partnership plans a pilot project in Sweden next year to test a small "farm" of four 200 kW vertical turbines quite similar to the one Ericsson is employing. Vertical Wind's founder Hans Bernhold says the difference in the turbines he's manufacturing is also one of quality and future maintenance, especially due to the use of a direct-drive generator, which entails fewer moving parts.
"I say that our generator is the Arnold Schwarzenegger, while traditional turbines have more of the Nicole Kidman generator."
The four generators will be installed in Falkenberg, Sweden. E.ON said it hopes the pilot will demonstrate that commercial development of vertical turbines can relieve the turbine supply bottleneck and make wind development in Scandinavia more cost-effective. Sweden is currently looking to up its renewable energy goal from 17TWh of production by 2015 to 30 TWh of production by 2020, with most of the increase coming from on and offshore wind. Via ::E.ON (Swedish)
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