At Nottingham Trent University, an innovation in small wind power could add up to something big for distributed renewable energy. The university’s sustainable design project, Future Factory, is currently working with Derbyshire inventor Heath Evdemon, founder of Wind Power Innovations, on the Wind Harvester, a small system capable of generating power from a range of wind speeds, with the potential to bring wind energy to small farms and hamlets across the U.K. and beyond.
While traditional wind turbines typically feature three blades that rotate around a horizontal hub at the top of a tower, the Wind Harvester is based on a reciprocating motion that makes use of horizontal airfoils, similar to those employed by airplanes. And while most traditional rigs produce the most juice with wind speeds around 30 mph—and shut down to prevent storm damage at 50 mph—the Wind Harvester is said to generate electricity efficiently at speeds both lower and higher than those required by large turbines.
Another bonus: by generating electricity at lower speeds, with a smaller set up, the Wind Harvester can not only work where other turbines can’t—i.e., closer to human habitation—it may face less opposition from those concerned with aesthetics. It’s said to operate noiselessly, as well, which would answer another big criticism of standard wind turbines.
All of which comes at a fine time for small wind in general, as recent cleantech analysis from Pike Research indicates that the global market for small wind systems will more than double between 2010 and 2015, rising from $255 million to $634 million. Pikes goes on to predict that, within the same period, new small wind system installed capacity worldwide will nearly triple, reaching 152 megawatts (MW), causing a boom in investment likely to drop the price of such systems to just over $4,150 per kilowatt (kW), based on economies of scale.