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Vertical turbines to boost the efficiency of wind farms

By Yoana Cholteeva 27 Apr 2021 (Last Updated April 27th, 2021 15:49)

New research from Oxford Brookes University has found that vertical turbine design is more efficient than traditional turbines in large-scale wind farms. When set in pairs, vertical turbines increase each other’s performance by up to 15%.

Vertical turbines to boost the efficiency of wind farms
The study analyses various aspects of wind turbine performance, including array angle, direction of rotation, turbine spacing, and a number of rotors. Source: Sebastien Van de Walle on Unsplash

The research team from the School of Engineering, Computing, and Mathematics, led by Professor Iakovos Tzanakis, conducted an in-depth study with more than 11,500 hours of computer simulation.

It has shown that wind farms can perform better when substituting traditional propeller type Horizontal Axis Wind Turbines (HAWTs), for compact Vertical Axis Wind Turbines (VAWTs).

When VAWTs spin around an axis vertical to the ground, they exhibit the opposite behaviour of the well-known propeller design. The research has also found that VAWTs increase each other’s performance when arranged in grid formations, so positioning wind turbines to maximise outputs is critical to wind farm design.

Professor Tzanakis said: “This study evidences that the future of wind farms should be vertical. VAWTs can be designed to be much closer together, increasing their efficiency and, ultimately, lowering the price of electricity. In the long run, VAWTs can help accelerate the green transition of our energy systems, so that more clean and sustainable energy comes from renewable sources.”

With the UK’s wind energy capacity expected to almost double by 2030, the findings that large-scale VAWTs might outcompete current HAWTs for the first time are crucial to improving renewable energy prospects.

According to the ‘Global Wind Report 2021’, countries need to be installing wind power three times faster over the next 10 years to meet net-zero targets and avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Joachim Toftegaard Hansen, lead author of the report, said: “Modern wind farms are one of the most efficient ways to generate green energy; however, they have one major flaw – as the wind approaches the front row of turbines, turbulence will be generated downstream. The turbulence is detrimental to the performance of the subsequent rows.

“In other words, the front row will convert about half the kinetic energy of the wind into electricity, whereas for the back row, that number is down to 25%-30%. Each turbine costs more than £2 million/MW. As an engineer, it naturally occurred to me that there must be a more cost-effective way.”

The study analyses various aspects of wind turbine performance, including array angle, direction of rotation, turbine spacing, and a number of rotors.