Return Of The Vertical Axis Wind Turbine: The Force Awakens

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The micro wind market has taken its share of lumps in the past, but the industry has developed new standards in recent years with an assist from the US Energy Department and other stakeholders. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the WIND e-20 vertical axis wind turbine from the Michigan-based company CGE Energy, which just got a nice shoutout from Wind Power Engineering magazine.

“Wind Turbine Of The Month” Breaks All The Rules

Wind Power Engineering tapped the WIND e-20 as “Wind Turbine of the Month” in its October issue. Aside from the technical specs, reporter Paul Dvorak teased out some juicy details, leading off with the observation, “this turbine design and its developer break all the rules — in a good way.”

Interestingly, the first two items on the rule-breaking list don’t have anything to do with the turbine design itself. They could be applied practically anywhere across the ground-mounted micro wind sector.

Number one is CGE’s lease-only financing arrangement. It echoes the now-familiar PPA (power purchase agreement) common across the solar industry. That arrangement enables the site owner to get the turbine installed on site without any up-front costs. The whole thing is paid off through charges for the electricity.

Another feature that caught Wind Power’s eye is the low-cost, low-impact installation. CGE leverages a prefabricated foundation that requires only a standard backhoe to install. Dvorak teases out this detail:

…The company president and CEO Bryan Zaplitny says prep requires no more than a common backhoe on a 20 by 20-ft square piece of land. “Factory preparation of the foundation allows more control of the concrete than would an outdoor pour. This is just one of the ways we streamline the adoption of sustainable energy. Most importantly, we can be good stewards of the planet and reuse the foundation elsewhere.”

Nice! Additionally, the turbine tower goes up without need for a crane.

Also sweetening the pot is the three-blade “egg beater” configuration of the turbine, which creates a seemingly solid shape while spinning. Reportedly, the solid shape helps deter birds from flying into the blades.

→ Related: Vertical Axis Wind Turbines: Great In 1890, Also-rans In 2014

More And Better Micro Wind Turbines

As for the design specs, Google patents has all the details. For those of you on the go, the basic design can be traced back to the 1931 G. J. M. Darrieus patent (U.S. Pat. No. 1,835,018) for “a three-bladed wind turbine mounted on a vertical rotating shaft.”

Fast-forward to 2014 and you get US patent 8823199 B2 for a “fluid driven turbine” from CGE:

A fluid turbine comprises a rotor rotatable in use about an axis transverse to the direction of fluid flow. The rotor has a first part carrying a plurality of arcuate blades and a second part journalled in a base structure by means of two or more bearings. All the bearings are arranged on the same side of the blades so that the first part of the rotor is cantilever supported in the base structure.

Among the long list of advantages cited in the patent, the generator and brakes are located at or near ground level, so their size and shape is not confined to the restrictions of the turbine nacelle. That provides for off-the-shelf options as well as ease of maintenance.

The patent also underscores ease of shipping and assembly:

  • The central tubular structural parts of the turbine may be separated into four different sections, each of which fits inside a shipping container for purposes of transportation by road, rail, sea or air. The blades may also be transported in smaller subassemblies. Despite the smaller size of these sub-assemblies, the on-site assembly process is relatively simple.

Fabrication of the blades also gets a shout-out:

  • The vertical rotor sections of the turbine are suitable for a cost-effective manufacturing process known as filament winding, in which glass fibers or other fibers are soaked in resin and wound around a large cylindrical mandrel, forming lightweight, strong structural parts.

Micro Wind Turbines, Coming Soon To A Site Near You

CGE is also moving forward on a related business endeavor, its proprietary “Sustain” energy efficiency and renewable energy program.

Sustain leverages an increasingly popular financing tool for energy efficiency upgrades that is similar to PPAs. Under a so-named Energy Performance Contract, the property owner pays for the improvements through energy savings, without incurring any up-front costs.

CGE already has a number of “success stories” under its belt, and it has just announced a major new energy savings project under Sustain program with three public housing authorities in Michigan.

According to CGE, this will be the first joint “Energy Performance Contract” (EPC) project for HUD’s small low-income housing agencies in the US, encompassing a total of 213 apartments among the three locations. Here’s the rundown from CGE:

…Measures to be implemented include such energy saving and sustainable energy measures as LED lighting upgrades, plumbing fixtures, boilers, water heaters, natural gas co-generation, solar PV, improved energy management systems, as well as infrastructure repairs at some sites. The sites are also being evaluated for the future implementation of CGE’s WIND-e20 wind turbine.

That’s just for starters. CGE states that another seven housing authorities in Michigan are lined up to be greenlighted after the first three are completed.

Any micro wind doubters out there, take it up with HUD or the US Department of Energy, which seems to be very keen on small wind turbines — or drop us a note in the comment thread.

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Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

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