Alaska Project to Test Energy Promise of Small, Vertical-Axis Wind Turbines

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A wind farm being planned in a remote Alaska village will seek to demonstrate that small, vertical-axis turbines can produce more energy than conventional wind turbines and cause less environmental damage.

While the turbines used in most standard wind farm projects can produce turbulence that actually decreases the output of the turbines downstream, John Dabiri, a California Institute of Technology professor, says that small, vertical-axis turbines can create a wake that actually boosts the output of adjacent turbines if positioned strategically.

In addition, the smaller turbines can be placed closer together without causing aerodynamic interference, are cheaper to produce, and are less likely to kill birds, Dabiri told MIT’s Technology Review. Dabiri says he hopes his Alaska project, which could eventually include 70 turbines in the village of Igiugig, can generate as much energy as the diesel generators currently used by the community. Critics argue that the vertical-axis turbines aren’t as efficient as conventional turbines.

Article appearing courtesy Yale Environment 360.

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Yale Environment 360 is an online magazine offering opinion, analysis, reporting and debate on global environmental issues. We feature original articles by scientists, journalists, environmentalists, academics, policy makers, and business people, as well as multimedia content and a daily digest of major environmental news. Yale Environment 360 is published by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale University. We are funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The opinions and views expressed in Yale Environment 360 are those of the authors and not of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies or of Yale University.

4 Comments

  1. With vast amounts of open space available in Alaska (and most countries) I don’t see that “efficiency” is relevant. What is relevant is total cost per KwH. I don’t see those details in the post.

  2. It’s unfortunate that the reporter (or perhaps the CalTech professor) pits one wind technology (VAWT) against another (HAWT). What the Alaska test site should really be doing is evaluating a mix of small turbine technologies against the diesel gen set base case the site likely uses currently. In these cold remote windy locations, small wind generators are ideally suited, and by incorporating ever cheaper battery storage technology, small wind power clusters can be very effectively used for baseload purposes.

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