New Spin On Wind Turbine Adds Solar Element

Go big or go home, right? That seems to be the thinking at the University of Bath, which has headlined a report on a new renewable energy device design with the not-so-timid claim: “New hybrid technology set to change the future of renewables.”

The university is touting a design that combines wind and solar in a vertical-axis turbine configuration. It was developed by a company called McCamley Middle East, with input from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Bath, we’re told.

mccamley hybrid wind-solar

McCamley hybrid wind-solar turbine design on display (image via McCamley Middle East)

Bath and McCamley make assertions of superiority over horizontal-axis turbines: the turbine, they say, starts up in lighter winds, handles variations in wind direction better and can continue operating at very high wind speeds. These are familiar claims for vertical-axis turbines – as Michael Barnard points out in his excellent overview of VAWTs – and theoretically defensible to some degree. But why this design would be superior to other VAWTs, none of which have yet passed muster with the Small Wind Certification Council, BTW, isn’t clear.

On the website referred to by Bath, the company, McCamley Middle East, notes that it has been testing 1-kilowatt prototypes in Bulgaria and the UK, and is accepting orders for a 12-kW device “which will be available for delivery and installation by August 2013.”

Mind you, though, this is just a wind turbine; there’s nothing said there about any solar element, nor does the Bath release go into detail on that count. What type of panels, their generating capacity, their expected efficiency given the design parameters – no word on any of that.

There is some rational basis for combining solar and wind, as noted by the U.S. Department of Energy; wind and sun often come at opposite times of the day, so in off-grid situations, a combo system could provide power night and day. Southwest Windpower, now defunct, used to market a system that put a horizontal-axis turbine rated at 2.1 kW at the top of a pole and solar panels totaling 1.4 kW down the pole a bit.

Sports columnist, newspaper desk guy, website managing editor, wine-industry PR specialist, freelance writer—Pete Danko’s career in media has covered a lot of terrain. The constant along the way has been a fierce dedication to knowing the story and getting it right. Danko's work has appeared in Wired, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

  • Ronald P Barrett

    American Solar Wind Energy LLC has been conducting integrated PV (solar)with an advanced Savonius VAWT RD&T for the past few years at latitudes of 24N to 55N. To build a long term use system of ten years or more, with low MTBFs and have a ROI that is acceptable is a real challenge with today’s technologies, and sell it at a competitive market price! Ronald P Barrett, Chief Engineer RD&T

  • Mike Barnard

    It’s hard to defend combining the two technologies in a single device which will inevitably present the solar panels at a vastly sub-optimal angle and increase weight and complexity of the wind generator. Instead, a simple rectangular array on the ground on the sunny side of the wind turbine or on the side of the mast facing the sun or on a nearby rooftop would make much more sense, be easier to install and maintain and likely be much cheaper. In other words, this is a bit of a silly idea.

    And of course, use a simple small HAWT instead of what appears to be a Savonius variant, the least effective form of VAWT for anything except pumping water.

    All in all, a rather foolish idea, although I can easily imagine people spending money on it, which I imagine is the point rather than creating a truly effective wind + solar generator.

    If it gets more press, I’ll add it to this list of mostly bad bets in wind innovation:

    • Mike Barnard

      Note: I’ve done a little more digging. It’s a Darieus-style wind turbine in the middle of the shroud, not a Savonius. This doesn’t make this that much more likely to be good, especially when they add the lipstick of self-adjusting blades, which merely means more complexity and cost on a lower efficiency turbine.

      Further, they did get a few press mentions recently, which they’ve managed in a couple of spurts since they originally fielded this idea in 2011 (based on a 30 year old gizmo someone had hacked together incidentally). As such, I added it to my list of bad bets post, referenced above.

      • Pete Danko

        Great stuff, Mike. Thanks for adding this insight.

  • Captian Zyloon

    Indeed Sirs, One can mount the generator and gearbox safley on the ground on a concreate pad and then a for real Electrical and or mechanical Engineer who might not be capable of climbing a tower can access the thing if need be.

    I pointed this out to someone capable of understanding what I was saying and was repected enough by his peers they would actually hear what he was saying 25+ years ago. The Guy’s dead He died of Prostate cancer.

  • Alec Sevins

    Reducing landscape blight ought to be a priority with any wind turbine concept, but the trend seems to be toward ever larger, view-wrecking machines.