Bigger is not always better: how small scale wind turbines could save the sector

Bigger is not always better: how small scale wind turbines could save the sector

2019-08-05T12:15:03+00:00August 5th, 2019|Wind Energy|

Conventional wisdom dictates that larger wind farms are more efficient and effective, but as wind power becomes a more significant component of the world’s energy mix, building increasingly vast turbines could become prohibitively expensive. Halo Energy has developed a shrouded wind turbine that brings efficient energy production to small-scale turbines, which could improve the performance of US wind and address imbalances in the sector. JP Casey found out more.

Renewable energy is accounting for an increasing amount of the global energy mix, and wind power is leading the way. EU statistical office Eurostat reported in 2017 that wind power contributed 30.7% of the EU’s gross energy consumption, more than any other renewable source, and global installed wind capacity has climbed from 435,284MW in 2015 to 596,556MW in 2018, an increase of 28%.

Much of this productivity has been achieved through utility-scale turbines, those producing more than 100KW, and which are typically collected in large farms. A guiding principle behind the growth of wind power is that taller turbines with larger blades are more efficient, producing more energy for the cost, which has encouraged manufacturers to produce increasingly vast turbines; for example Lockheed Martin has designed a gargantuan 50MW turbine, the blades of which are 200 metres long alone.

However, building increasingly large turbines requires greater investment of both money and resources, and intensifies the problem that turbines can only be productive in windy areas by making some turbines simply too large to operate in parts of the world.

Distributed wind has emerged as a solution to this issue. Defined as a wind turbine producing less than 100KW, these smaller turbines can be deployed in a greater range of locations, and can involve individual people directly in the production of clean energy. One of the leading proponents of the ideas is US-based Halo Energy, which has developed a 6KW shrouded turbine. It measures just 12 feet in diameter, and could help address the wind sector’s imbalance between utility-scale and distributed operations.