New Scalable Wind Turbine Said to be ‘Urban Tolerant’

Image: First prototype of Windstrument, hand-built in 2007 © Windstrument

With a new patent in hand, Windstrument aims to “bring affordable renewable energy to the masses” with their unique wind turbine design, which can be rooftop or pole mounted in both urban areas and in wind farms.

The idea for the design of this new type of wind turbine came from a study of the modern racing sail, after the inventor spent time on an America’s Cup boat. According to the company, this innovative shape enables the turbine to function in turbulent wind conditions due to the blades developing a “cushion of air” on their surfaces, which smooths out the blade’s motion and eliminates vibration in the units.

The Windstrument’s unconventional shape is called a conical helicoid, a pattern found naturally in plants and animals, and one said to be “the most energy efficient, energy generative and durable pattern in existence”. The company says that this design allows for bird and human-safe reliable wind power at lower heights and in urban environments, due to its ability to generate power at wind speeds as low as 2 mph.

Windstrument turbines can be mounted alone, such as for a small residential system, or in conjunction with a number of other turbines in a configuration called a WindOrchard, suitable for industry or utility scale energy production. The turbines feature easily replaceable parts (including the blades), and due to their smaller size and lighter weight, can be transported and installed with much less impact than large conventional turbines.

The current size of the Windstrument turbine has a 50 inch diameter swept area, with an output capacity of 1.2 kW, although both smaller and larger models are in the works. The blades are made from 50% recycled fiber-reinforced polypropylene, but the company’s goal is to be able to use 100% recycled content polypropylene resin for the turbines.

The company received its patent in July of this year, and has a number of different sizes and configurations in the works, including the possibility of using them for buoy-mounted offshore wind installations.


Portable Power Center Wind Turbine Fits into a Shipping Container

Wind turbines have the potential to be very useful in providing renewable power to remote communities which have little or no infrastructure. Unfortunately, larger turbines tend to require a relatively involved set-up, with specialist gear needed to construct and maintain the turbines. The Portable Power Center (PPC) by Uprise Energy innovates in this regard by providing a self-contained unit which folds within a shipping container, and can be transported by truck.

The PPC is rated as a 50-kilowatt (kW) turbine, and San Diego-based Uprise Energy states that it puts out enough power to provide electricity to up to 15 average U.S. homes during 12 mph (roughly 20 km/h) winds, with that number increasing to 71 homes in 20 mph (32 km/h) winds. Each of the turbine blades are 21 ft (6.5 meters) long, and when operational, the entire height of the machine is around 80 ft (24 meters), with a weight of roughly 12,000 pounds (5,300 kg).

The PPC features an Energy Conversion System (ECS) – essentially a proprietary on-board computer which monitors local weather patterns and adjusts itself to best capture the wind, rotating a full 360 degrees when necessary. The ECS adjusts blade pitch and speed, and if the wind becomes too strong, it will park the rotor and lay the mast down to avoid damage. Further to this, the ECS stores excess energy so that when the wind is low, the machine draws on the stored power, ensuring a constant supply of power.

Uprise Energy CEO Jonathan Knight told us that if the machine sees an average wind speed of 12 mph (20 km/h) over a 20 year period, the power it produces will work out at around $0.10 for each kilowatt per hour.

The PPC is still in development at the moment, but when it is released, complete units are expected to be available for US$240,000.


Samsung to Equip 84MW Offshore Wind Farm in South Korea

The turbines will be installed in shallow waters off the coast of Korea’s Jeju island
Photograph: Justin Ornellas/Flickr

Samsung Heavy Industries is to build an 84MW wind farm off the coast of Korea’s Jeju island using its new 7MW turbines.

The project, to be installed by the end of 2014, will be one of South Korea’s first commercial offshore wind farms, and the first to use Samsung’s 7MW machine.

The turbines will be installed in shallow waters off the coast of Jeju island’s Daejeong County, with operation scheduled to start in 2015.

The wind farm will be operated by Daejeong Offshore Wind Power (DOWP), a joint venture set up by Samsung Heavy and state-run power company Korea Southern Power last month. Samsung Heavy holds a 60% stake in the venture.

If installation of the project goes smoothly, DOWP will expand the wind farm to 200MW, according to the company.

Samsung says the new project will help its ambitions to gain a leading position in the global wind power market.

Samsung Heavy is targeting the European wind market and has a memorandum of understanding with the Scottish authorities to install one of its 7MW turbines at Fife Energy Park in Methil by the end of 2014, says Inchan Hwang, manager of the corporate relations team at Samsung Heavy.

The company is also considering building manufacturing facilities in Scotland.

Last year Doosan said it would build a 60MW project off the northeast coast of Jeju Island to be completed in 2014. However, the company has since announced a withdrawal from the offshore wind business.

South Korea’s government is also planning a 2.5GW offshore project to be installed by 2019.

South Korea has limited space for onshore wind farms, forcing its local manufacturers to focus on offshore projects instead.

Source: rechargenews,com

Saudi Arabia to Transition to 100% Renewables

Through it acknowledges that it may take decades, Saudi Arabia has announced plans to transition to 100% renewable energy, The Guardian reports.

Prince Turki Al Faisal Al Saud touted the nation’s vast solar power potential, as well as the potential for Saudi Arabia’s depleted oil fields being used for carbon capture and storage projects, though mentioned no specific date being aimed for.

Which is all fine and good, but Prince Turki also mentioned something which shows a certain prescience, an important forethought, and some insight into how Saudi Arabia and other oil producing nations could still potentially profit from their oil reserves—extending the lifetime of their reserves—even after it is no longer used as the dominant method of powering vehicles:

Oil is more precious for us underground than as a fuel source. If we can get to the point where we can replace fossil fuels and use oil to produce other products that are useful, that would be very good for the world. I wish that may be in my lifetime, but I don’t think it will be.

The Prince’s words offer an interesting scenario to consider:

At some future time the dominant mode of generating electricity is renewable, low-carbon sources. This provides power for our homes, gadgets, many of our vehicles. Perhaps some vehicles, such as container ships and aircraft are still powered by oil or some combination of renewables, oil, and sustainably produced biofuels in limited quantities. Oil is still used but in a much more limited capacity than they are now, used to make products that simply can’t be made with other materials and are designed to last virtually forever (plastic is pretty much forever, remember…). Yes, there are still some carbon emissions resulting from manufacturing such products, and from the limited burning of oil for transportation, but since renewably produced electricity has become the norm, displacing fossil fuel-generated electricity and replacing oil in most transportation, emissions from this sector are still hugely reduced. We’re using resources far more wisely than we now are—though for the sake of discussion I’m deliberately ignoring potential environmental impact of oil extraction, an abstraction for sure. It’s perhaps not a purely green future, but it’s a far, far more green path than we’re now treading. It’s also providing a more palatable end game for oil companies and oil producing nations than simply telling them to kick their dependency cold turkey.


The New-Build Solar Opportunity

As many Americans who bought a home in the mid-2000s might remember, it was generally very good business to buy and live in a home, flip it, move and get a predictable double-digit return on investment.

For many in the real estate industry, these were the golden days, when homes were being constructed like wildfire at an annual pace of about 2 million new builds a year with housing prices hitting all-time highs in 2005-2006.

Obviously things are a little different now. In fact, we’re only building about a third as many residences per year than we were during the housing bubble’s peak. But picture this: If we could somehow get one-fourth of new residential units in 2012 to be built with solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, the total number of rooftop solar systems in the United States would just about double in size.

As this back of the envelope calculation shows, there’s an exciting opportunity for solar energy in the world of new residential construction. Even with the sector reeling from the financial crisis, 700,000 new builds a year is a huge number for advocates of distributed solar to wrap their head around — especially considering that about 200,000 total solar systems have been built over the past ten years, according to NREL’s Open PV database.

Personally, it’s not just sheer numbers that gets me excited about the solar opportunity in the new build market. It’s also the potential for rooftop solar PV systems to be installed at much, much lower costs than they would otherwise be on a home that’s already built. For new-build PV, steep cost reductions can be found throughout the balance of system side of the cost equation:

Hardware and system design costs can be greatly reduced since designing and sourcing a system would happen at the outset of home design instead of having to customize systems for existing roofs with shading, ventilation or loading issues.
Financing costs that currently account for 23 percent of a residential system’s total cost could be removed almost entirely since solar developers wouldn’t need to go shopping for outside tax equity appetite. The PV system could simply be included in the total home mortgage amount.[1]
Permitting and inspection costs can also come down dramatically since the system would be constructed, permitted and inspected in lockstep with other home inspections and permitting processes.
The cost of acquiring customers is lessened greatly by simply including PV systems with new homes. For the solar developer, the “customers” really become a few large builders rather than thousands of homeowners who must each individually consider a major roof system addition to their home with its aesthetic changes and roof functionality concerns.
Labor costs can be greatly reduced on both the permitting and installation fronts, especially when roofers have PV experience and can kill two birds with one stone when building roofs.

These new-build-associated cost reductions aren’t simply theoretical. PetersenDean Roofing and Solar recently launched their The Buck a Watt Stops Here campaign. This program intends to offer rooftop solar power to home-builders for a “buck a watt” (that’s an 83 percent reduction vs. 2011 costs of about $5.89 per watt) so long as builders hire PetersenDean to build both roofs and solar systems for projects.

Now, the skeptic in me says that there might be some fuzzy math going on with this buck-a-watt pricing, including extremely narrow margins and selective cost accounting (e.g. a roofer’s time may be logged as roof construction while they install PV).

But even if we assume that it actually costs PetersenDean another $1 a watt to get these deals done, that’s still substantially cheaper than the average cost of rooftop solar in Germany — the current undisputed international king of low cost solar.

So remember, even in the midst of a greatly diminished residential construction market, the opportunity for solar PV to be included in new construction is large and available for the taking by clever entrepreneurs looking for new revenue streams in a slowly re-emerging American residential construction market.

[1] Based on RMI analysis of Ardani et al. Quantifying Non-Hardware Balance of System Costs for Photovoltaic Installations in the United States Using a Combined Annual Expenditure-Labor Hour Productivity Approach. IEEE, 2012.