Wind Turbines Take a New Shape

Vertical-Axis Wind Turbine Design


We are all familiar with the design of wind turbines.  A rotating pinwheel has been the image of the green machine that comes to mind upon hearing the word “windmill” for a long time now.  It might come as a surprise, then, to learn that this is not the only shape the wind turbines have taken.  One of particular interest is called the vertical axis wind turbine (VAWT), currently being considered at Sandia National Laboratories.  The VAWT are superior to the traditional horizontal-axis design for several reasons.  The drive train mechanism is considerably closer to the ground, enabling easier maintenance; the VAWTs are simpler and have  lower center of gravity, suggesting potentially cheaper wind power; and the machine does not need to face the wind, ensuring less maintenance and more return.  The one problem with the VAWT design is that the turbines cannot be regulated to produce a continuous speed, meaning that uneven torque on the blades from the wind causes significant wear to the turbine.  Still, the VAWT is an important advancement in wind turbine technology, as it is merely another step toward improving turbine design and maximizing turbine efficiency.  And that is ultimately the goal of the apparatus.

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