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The Quest for Vertical Axis Wind Turbines Despite Failures

Jan 31, 2013
Source: 
(Scientific American)

The vision is beautiful, if not somewhat tried: a large cluster of 360 foot tall towers encircled with long, slightly cupped blades, similar to airplane wings, spinning in the wind like a wind vane. The result? An outpouring of clean electricity at the Megawatt (MW) scale.

That’s what Harry Ruda, CEO of Wing Power Energy, a small vertical axis wind turbine (VAWT) company, sees when he imagines his turbines coming of age. He’s one of the believers out there gallantly chasing the dream of making VAWTS big.

Currently, his 2-kilowatt capacity turbines stand 34 feet tall. However diminutive (both in terms of height and output), Ruda believes these turbines are the blueprint for the next generation of wind energy, that when scaled up, will revamp wind power at the utility level, ushering in wind 3.0.

The quest to slay the faulty dragon of conventional, or horizontal axis, wind turbines (HAWTS) has been an impossible one, thus far. The domination of conventional wind comes from their reliability, efficiency and increasingly low cost, despite vertical’s touted improvements – less expensive to build and maintain, safer for birds and bats, quieter, and their ability to use less open space.