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UGE Raises The Bar For Vertical Axis Micro Wind Turbines

The wind turbine company UGE first crossed our radar in 2012, when it teamed with GE to launch Sanya Skypump, the world’s first EV charging station powered directly by a wind turbine. Now the company is back with the launch of VisionAIR3, a ramped up, high efficiency version of the company’s earlier micro vertical axis wind turbine model.

For those of you new to the vertical axis field, the vertical system is far more compact than the now-familiar horizontal axis wind turbines dotting the US landscape. That provides for a broad range of opportunities for site selection in close quarters, including the tops of buildings, sports stadiums, and smaller structures.

VIsionAIR5 micro wind turbine

VisionAIR series vertical axis micro wind turbine courtesy of UGE.

Getting On The Vertical Axis Micro Wind Turbine Short List

The official debut of this new addition to the UGE (formerly Urban Green Energy) stable follows last month’s announcement of a third party certified power curve for the VisionAIR series, which added VisionAIR to a “short list” of vertical axis turbines to receive the credit.

The certification, by the lab Intertek, confirmed that VisionAIR turbines begin generating power at speeds as low as 7 mph, and according to UGE it is “twice as efficient as several of its competitors.”

 The next step is completion of AWEA (American Wind Energy Association) 9.1 certification, which UGE expects in the coming months.

The 9.1 certification comes under AWEA’s Small Wind Turbine Performance and Safety Standard. It was adopted by the wind industry in 2009, with uniform performance, safety and durability standards for small wind turbines (btw we’re calling them micro because it sounds cooler), defined as swept areas of 200 square meters or less.

Our sister site PlanetSave has noted that the micro wind turbine industry has been bedeviled by hype and hucksters, so the certification standards are critical for the industry to achieve reliability and consumer confidence in the distributed energy generation market.

Getting 9.1 certification would also put UGE on another fairly short list. As of this writing, barely more than a dozen companies are listed as 9.1 certified or applying for certification by the Small Wind Certification Council, an independent certification body.

For that matter, it looks like our CleanTechnica list of Top Five Micro Wind Turbines is due for yet another remix.

The VisionAIR3 Vertical Axis Micro Wind Turbine

Speaking of the tops of buildings, the technology behind VisionAIR3 and others in the series (VisionAIR5 was launched last year) is focused like a laser on noise reduction in order to accommodate the growing market for on site renewable energy generation in urban and developed areas.

They must be pretty quiet all right. Among UGE’s customers is Hilton, which installed six UGE wind turbines right on top of its Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort. UGE turbines have also featured prominently at a colossal renewable energy makeover for Lincoln Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles.

According to UGE’s press materials, the new VisionAIR3 continues the VisionAIR line with improvements in durability and efficiency.

UGE VisionAIR3 micro wind turbine

VisionAIR3 micro wind turbine courtesy of UGE.

The installation can be tailored to squeeze the maximum efficiency for operators that use wind power on site as well as those contributing wind power to the grid, and it comes with the added bonus of UGE’s background in hybrid wind/solar power systems:

VisionAIR3 is designed to integrate effortlessly into UGE’s SeamlessGrid™ power management system which can easily incorporate solar panels for hybrid installations. SeamlessGrid™ includes advanced remote monitoring and control through UGE’s ViewUGE™ platform as well as additional safety features that redefine safety and long-term reliability for distributed energy systems.

The aforementioned wind powered EV charging station is one of those micro wind-hybrid systems, btw.

A Beauty Shot For The Wind Industry

We’ve noted previously that in the context of the distributed energy market the wind industry is considered “mature,” meaning that its strength is in utility scale operations.

Given UGE’s track record, though, we may have spoken too soon. As far as installations in cities, suburbs, and developed recreation areas goes, it looks like the market for distributed wind energy generation could be on the verge of breaking wide open, and that has as much to do with aesthetics as with clean power.

Compared to solar panels, micro wind turbines offer an eye catching addition to a building’s profile while underscoring the owner’s green cred, so it’s little wonder that more businesses are beginning to decorate their flagship properties with vertical axis micro wind turbines.

Aesthetics also apply at the big end of the wind turbine scale. Earlier this year we got a sneak peak at the latest GE tall wind turbine tower for horizontal axis wind turbines. The frame consists of steel open latticework (think Erector meets Eiffel), which in engineering parlance is called a space frame. However, GE veiled it with a white cladding partly to achieve visual consistency with standard tube-style turbine towers.

Come to think of it, would it be piling on too much to sit one of those VisionAir3 turbines on a GE Space Frame?

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Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.


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