Turbine innovation


April 11, 2013

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What’s happening to innovation in wind? Judging by many of the product announcements that the editorial team receives, much of the designs tend to be a variation on a theme.

Take Vestas this week. The Danish turbine manufacturer announced three new designs based around its 3MW platform. The new turbines are designed to be used at low, medium and high wind sites onshore.

And whilst likely to have been tested to destruction, and probably well up to the task, there doesn’t seem to be anything innovative attached to the products.

Yes of course, wind energy assets have to balance the needs of future investment, insurance and reliability, but they should surely also look to keep evolving in design.

The majority of wind turbines today are three-bladed designs. Yet, as many small wind manufacturers are keen to point out, a two bladed design would certainly be as efficient, and may actually be more effective.

So if this is the case why doesn’t the industry look at other designs? Well in some respects, it has been down to the clever marketing of the larger players on the market. Those who have invested and persisted with three-bladed turbines aren’t about to suggest that other alternatives may be better.

And again, at the smaller scale, there is the assertion that three-blade designs are more aesthetically pleasing, and therefore more likely to secure planning permission.

So, whilst the innovation debate is as focused on an area as specific as number of blades, there seems little chance of manufacturers reaching out to look at vertical axis, or other more pioneering innovations.

The industry will also plead hardship, and point out that there is little appetite for innovation when large parts of the industry are surrounded in so much uncertainty.

But either way, the industry’s technology can’t be seen to be standing still. History shows that the industries that innovate are those that last longest.

Let’s not let wind energy fall by the wayside.

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