Vertical-axis wind turbine gets go-ahead

Paul Boughton

Project Nova (Novel Offshore Vertical-Axis), to which Qinetiq is a key technology supplier, was given the go ahead on 13 January 2009 by Lord Hunt, the UK Minister for Sustainable Development and Energy Innovation, as part of a potential £1.1billion fund.

Approximately £20million of Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) funding was made available to fund concept development and assess the feasibility of the four projects during the initial project phase, the ultimate aim of which is to provide the public with more affordable, clean electricity.

Project Nova's innovative aerogenerator wind turbine is based on a pair of giant V-shaped composite wings that will be scaled up to 120m high and rotate around the central axis to create power. Invented by David Sharpe and developed by Wind Power Limited, the aim is for a large-scale demonstrator to be installed offshore within six years and for offshore vertical-axis turbines to provide 1GW of power by 2020.

Neville Salkeld, managing director for Qinetiq's consulting business, comments: "Qinetiq's role in modelling aerodynamics is a key part of the project, as it will provide the main profile data on which the rest of the solution will be based. As the project develops, we also anticipate providing additional expertise in a variety of technological areas including specialist materials and turbine performance optimisation."

Offshore vertical-axis wind turbines are claimed to offer the potential for a breakthrough in offshore wind energy availability and reduced life-cycle costs due to their inherent design characteristics of few moving parts, insensitivity to wind direction, and the siting of the generator at base level potentially allowing large-scale direct drive. Their relatively low centre of gravity and overturning moments (in the case of Nova's aerogenerator) make the turbines highly suitable for offshore installation. In addition, they are potentially 'radar friendly' compared to existing horizontal-axis wind turbines.

A UK-based consortium has been put together by Wind Power Limited that includes world-leading research and development groups from Cranfield, Sheffield and Strathclyde Universities, as well as private technology company Qinetiq, to model and optimise the aerodynamic performance. The project is being managed and led by OTM Consulting, offshore energy specialists with many years' experience of developing joint industry projects. The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture (CEFAS) will look after environmental impact issues and consult with James Ingram Associates, who will provide offshore wind farm development know-how and experience.

The Nova project will follow a well-structured three-phase approach over a six-year period, starting with concept selection and feasibility (15 months), followed by subsystem development, testing and detailed design (24 months), and finally offshore demonstrator construction, installation and test (36 months). The project will in the first phase develop relationships with other organisations with a view to their participation in future phases. This will include a potential systems integrator, component manufacturers and suppliers.

Image: Grimshaw Architects

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