Novel, midsize wind turbine tested on dairy farm

Start-up Optiwind is testing whether there is a middle ground for wind power to serve schools, farms, and businesses with marginal wind resources.

Optiwind is one the few companies searching for the middle ground in wind power --somewhere between the gigantic three-blade wind mills and the small turbines for individual homes.

The company has erected its first midsize, production-scale wind turbine on a family farm in its home state of Connecticut to test performance, the company said late last week. It received a $1 million loan from the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund for the project.

This is the first production version of Optiwind's turbine with one cylinder at the top, instead of blades.
This is the first production version of Optiwind's turbine with one cylinder at the top, instead of blades. Optiwind

Optiwind is targeting organizations that have electricity bills around $100,000 per year and are looking for on-site power generation to offset those expenses. Alternatives approaches have included installing slightly smaller versions of the utilty-scale wind mills with blades or installing several small turbines --something that Wal-Mart is testing in some stores.

Another option is Optiwind's product, called the Compact Wind Acceleration Turbine (CWAT), which is designed to boost power production by accelerating the wind. Atop the CWAT's 200-foot tower, there are cylinders instead of blades. Although a 200-foot tower doesn't necessarily sound "midsize," it is considerably smaller than utility-scale turbines, which stand 200 feet to 300 feet tall and have 100-foot blades rotating from the top.

The CWAT's cylinders act to speed up the wind before it goes through fans, which are connected to a direct-drive generator. CWAT is designed for places that have less-than-pristine wind resources, often found among the Plains states in the U.S. or along coastal areas.

The company projects that its method can be cheaper than alternative wind technologies. According to Optiwind, its design is quiet, can protect birds and bats with shrouds over the fans, and won't cause radar disturbances.

At the farm project, Optiwind engineers will test a single cylinder at different heights and gather data. When complete, the tower will have a generating capacity of 150 kilowatts. The company had tried to erect a tower at another location but couldn't get a permit, a company spokesman told The Register Citizen. Optiwind was then approached by the owner of Klug Farm in Torrington, Conn., to test it device there, the representative said.

There are a handful of companies trying to stake out this middle ground with midsize turbines and alternative designs, including FloDesign Wind Turbine, which received a Department of Energy grant to further test its jet engine-derived turbine .

 

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