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Published on June 22nd, 2011 | by Zachary Shahan


Vertical-Axis Wind Turbines — An Option for You?

June 22nd, 2011 by  

This post brought to you by Sauer Energy. All opinions are 100% mine.

Wind power is growing fast, as anyone here on CleanTechnica should know by now. It is exploding as its costs fall and the high costs of other power sources (i.e. coal and nuclear) are made more apparent and rise. And, this is all expected to continue in the years to come because wind power technologies are quickly being developed and improved, their fuel (wind) is expected to remain free indefinitely (hope so), and the costs of coal and nuclear are expected to continue rising.

Now, most of the time, when we discuss wind power, we are talking about huge wind turbines and wind farms, but there is a market growing around micro wind turbines (we get a ton of new visitors every day just from people searching that term), and there are companies already making micro wind a viable option for homeowners and small businesses. One such company is Sauer Energy, and I’ve actually written about its new Vertical-Axis Wind Turbine (VAWT) in the past, but it’s been awhile and when approached with an idea to write about it again, I jumped on board. This is exciting technology to me, for a few key reasons….

Micro Wind Turbines:

  • allow us to make use of wind energy in many more locations than traditional turbines;
  • (like solar) allow for more decentralized power generation, meaning it lets individuals and small businesses become more self-reliant and less dependent on mega-corporations;
  • avoid some of the hiccups large-scale wind turbines run into, such as problems related to birds, bats, and noise (problems that don’t compare to those created by coal or nuclear plants, but are something worth addressing, nonetheless); and
  • generate electricity close to where it is being used, meaning less of it is lost in transmission and distribution.

Good stuff, eh?

Benefits of Sauer Energy’s VAWT Wind Charger

Now, as we all know, not all computers are the same.. the same goes for micro wind turbines. There are a couple clear benefits to Sauer Energy‘s Wind Charger worth noting:

  • it’s one of the most efficient and affordable wind turbines on the market;
  • it offers a 10-year warranty (twice the industry standard).

Definitely worth a check if you are interested in creating your own cheap electricity today and in the years to come.

As an alternative or complement to clean, distributed solar power, I think innovative micro wind turbines like this have a lot to offer.

What are your thoughts on this?

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About the Author

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.

  • Travis

    You don’t seem to mention how Sauer Energy grossly overestimates the power output of its turbines (approximately 2.5-3 fold). They post a power curve on their site (claiming it to be of their turbine) that is clearly just the power available in the wind. The only way to produce their claimed power output would be if the wind was over twice as dense as sea level.  Also, they continuously claim that their turbine is the newest of the new technology in the wind power industry, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

    I’m not against VAWTs in any way, shape or form (I’m currently building one myself), but Sauer Energy is just another company trying to make a quick buck off of investors and those who do not understand enough about wind power production. Companies like this give Wind Power a bad name and feed into the negativity promoted by anti-wind companies and people.

    • Hmm, thanks for the comment. Will keep all this in mind for future stories…

  • Patrick Simpsons

    I was really amazed with vertical axis wind turbines on they work and done

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  • William Power

    If you lived on my island you would better appreciate the evil nature of the electric monopoly.Decentralized power generation frustrates both management and their minions in government,but some folks are optimistic that their tyranny is being eroded by a new variety of products and self sufficient attitudes.What hurts them helps us.

  • Pingback: New Vertical-Axis Wind Turbine Unveiled | CleanTechnica()

  • Irisyak

    If windmills kill birds you must stop cars that make a lot of killing birds and bates …

    • Anonymous

      lol, & Coal Power Plants too! 😀

  • Anonymous

    Wind turbines are really killing off all the bat’s and birds? Are you saying you had rather to go with coal, fracking for natural gas, off shore drilling or nukes?Your position is that wind power really poses a more serious threat to their existence than our harvesting and consumption of fossil fuels?

    A far greater good to the overall environment would be achieved if everyone that could afford to, invest in a renewable energy source on site. First to maximize impact they should seek to improve the efficiency of their dwelling first. Your asking a bit much of the have’s asking them to conserve. 

    The least they could do, and they can certainly afford to, is invest in “local” wind and solar power. Demand will fuel investment. Investment will fuel innovation. Look at the computer industry prior to Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Mr. Jobs innovated, Mr. Gates achieved scale. And scale drove down the cost to a point where we can now all join in on the debate from home. 
    If, and I can only hope when, the same can be achieved in terms of energy produced and consumed at home. Well, you would be saving more than bats and birds. Much more.

    If you are holding out for the perfect solution then you need to move to Utopia. (If you find it, please forward me directions). Until then it might be prudent to take a hard look at the damage done while waiting on the perfect solution. 

    • Anonymous

      Beautiful, thanks for this comment.

      & Yes, if anyone finds Utopia, forward me directions, too! 😀

  • Jef

    Regarding the bat/bird fatalities, why not screen the turbine? A fine mesh screen enclosing the turbines would allow the wind to flow through and keep the birds and bats from smacking into them. Just a thought…

  • Anonymous

    People should look for some independent tests of any of these small turbine units before spending their money.  The small turbine industry has a goodly share of charlatans.

    Not saying these folks are, just saying “Show me the data”.

    • Jack

      In my experience installing VAWT’s the power output is just so minimal that it’s not worth it. They’re toys to show off that a company or individual supports green energy and wants to increase their P/R. Go solar and produce some real power with a reachable payback period

  • Anumakonda Jagadeesh

    Good Post. Vertical axis wind turbines have an advantage in that they are omni-directional and the generator and gear system are at the ground. There was lot of interest in the past on SAVONIUS ROTOR.

    I designed a Vertical Axis Savonius Rotor With 30 degrees concentrator to increase the Wind Velocity. The origin for this is,how is it when you stand on a hill you experience high winds(on a dam too). One is due to height and the other due to the slope. I conducted tests on models simulating dams in Wind Tunnel ranging from 10 degrees to 90 and found 30 degrees slope increases wind speed by 1.5 times at about half of the height . Since power is cube of velocity the power gain is 3.34 times.

    I modified the automobile generator by changing the windings to reduce the RPM. A 150 Watt System costs about 800US$  in South India and the unit can be fabricated in local workshops. This Stand alone Vertical Axis Savonius Rotor With Concentrator is expected to be a boon in developing countries.

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh  Nellore(AP),India
    Wind Energy Expert
    E-mail: anumakonda.jagadeesh@gmail.com

  • BT

    I hear these thing are banned a lot of places for simply eating birds… not that I think they are a bad idea.

    • Anonymous

      wow, really? hadn’t heard about that

    • Par0way

      Not vertical axis turbines.  They turn slower and are more visible than horizontal props.

      • Anonymous

        Horizontal axle turbines are not bird killers.  There’s a lot of bullshit spread by the friends of fossil fuels regarding bird kills.

        There’s a very thorough literature review paper on the danger of wind turbines to birds, it pulls together the data from a number of independent studies and it finds that fossil-fueled facilities are 17 time more dangerous on a GWh basis than is wind power.

        Wind turbines may have killed about 7,000 birds but fossil fueled operations have killed 14.5 million and nuclear 327,00


        There is a problem with bat kills at some turbine locations but that is being solved at the moment by not running the turbines when wind speeds are low enough for insects to fly.  A little bit of power is lost, so other solutions are being sought.

        • John

          While Sovacool et al’s paper[1] collates estimated avian and
          bat fatalities for wind and other forms of energy generation, it has been criticised
          for some basic errors in its methodology, for example in “Bats are not birds
          and other problems with Sovacool’s (2009) analysis of animal fatalities due to
          electricity generation” by Willis et al (http://ion.uwinnipeg.ca/~cwillis/pdfs/willis_et_al_2010_bats_are_not_birds.pdf). 


          Basically, it is complex and rather difficult to make accurate
          estimates of bird and bat fatalities with respect to electricity generation.


          Sovacool, BK. “Contextualizing Avian Mortality: A Preliminary Appraisal of Bird
          and Bat Fatalities from Wind, Fossil-Fuel, and Nuclear Electricity,” Energy Policy 37(6) (June,
          2009), pp. 2241-2248.  Available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2009.02.011
          (paywalled, but there’s an author’s copy at http://www.spp.nus.edu.sg/docs/fac/benjamin-sovacool/Published%20Papers/Sovacool-Contextualizing_Avian_%20Mortality.pdf)

          • Anonymous

            I find that paper rather “confusing”.  The authors main point seems to be that bats are not birds.  OK, no argument there.  Bats are being impacted by new taller (longer blade) turbine design.

            If we accept the authors’ claim that bird death is actually five times what Sovacool et al. claim then we are left with wind turbines killing about one third as many birds per kWh as do fossil fuel operations.

            Switching to wind turbines from fossil fuels would be a significant net gain for birds.

            On the bat death issue, does anyone have access to the Boyles, et al. article (Sceince  1, April 2011)?   It’s behind a paywall and I haven’t made it to the U library recently.

            Their article seems to be the major supporting document for bat deaths but I’ve seen no actual numbers.  The article is about the value of bats to agriculture and states that bats are in trouble.  The abstract, on which most people seem to base their “windmills are killing off bats” makes this statement…

            syndrome (WNS) and the increased development of wind-power facilities
            are threatening populations of insectivorous bats in North America.

            Normally this would lead one to assume fungal infection is the major killer, wind turbines secondary.  It does not tell us if wind turbines are a major killer as some tend to assume.

            On turbine-caused bat deaths

            Many of the bat deaths due to internal injuries from compression changes.

            when the creatures fly too close to the football-field-sized windmills
            that are springing up in wind farms from California to Massachusetts,
            they enter an area of reduced air pressure that causes their lungs to
            explode – a phenomenon known as barotrauma.

            a solution is in sight. Researchers are testing a technique that they
            hope will prevent millions of bat deaths a year. They intend to start
            turning off the turbines when wind speeds are low and, coincidently,
            when bats are most likely to be nearby. The
            method, if successful, would give a major boost to the wind industry
            and allow President Obama to  get closer to the renewable energy future
            he wants.

            A soon-to-be-released study conducted last year at two wind facilities owned by Iberdrola
            Renewables in Pennsylvania and West Virginia finds that shutting down
            the turbines during low wind periods can
            reduce fatalities by more than
            90 percent.

            Ed Arnett,
            the study´s coordinator, said the deaths occur almost exclusively when
            turbines are operating at night at low wind speeds. That is when bats
            are active and feeding because the wind is light enough for insects to

            theory is that the bats think the turbines are large trees and inspect
            them as potential roosting places. Researchers also think insects are
            attracted to the white towers at night and may draw bats to the turbines
            as a feeding ground.


          • Anonymous

            as always, so much respect for the deep research you do, Bob 😀

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