A groundbreaking wind turbine design that has the potential to significantly reduce the cost of offshore wind energy is set to be tested in Norway. The prototype is a 19-meter (62-foot) tall contra-rotating vertical-axis turbine, which is expected to pave the way for the development of larger and more powerful turbines.
Traditional wind turbines have a propeller-like design, which becomes increasingly impractical when deployed in deep ocean waters, where the most abundant wind resources can be found. This is mainly due to the heavy components being located at the top of the turbine, making it difficult and expensive to construct and maintain floating versions that are stable in strong winds.
However, World Wide Wind (WWW) has come up with an alternative solution with their contra-rotating vertical-axis wind turbine (VAWT). In this design, the heavy generator components are situated at the bottom of the turbine, submerged underwater and attached to a floating pontoon. This weighting at the base provides stability to the entire structure without the need for complex mooring systems.
The turbine consists of two vertical-axis turbines, each equipped with three fixed blades set at a 45-degree angle to the main tower shaft. The lower turbine rotates in one direction while the upper turbine, mounted on a pole that runs through the middle of the lower turbine, rotates in the opposite direction. This configuration allows the turbine to extract useful torque from the wind for approximately 300 degrees of rotation.
The contra-rotating mechanism effectively doubles the rotating speed of the turbine, which translates to increased power generation. Former WWW CEO Trond Lutdal explains that this doubling of power can either be leveraged to generate more electricity or to reduce generator costs by 50%. Moreover, the design is highly scalable, making it possible to construct turbines up to 400 meters (1,312 feet) tall with a capacity of 40 MW, nearly double that of the world’s largest wind turbines.
The unique rotor design of the contra-rotating VAWT also reduces blade tip speed and minimizes wake effects, allowing for closer deployment of turbines within a wind farm. This increases energy generation within a given area and reduces the need for extensive connection cabling.
WWW plans to test a small-scale 19-meter prototype in collaboration with AF Gruppen, a major industrial construction group in Norway. Although no specific timeline has been provided for this initial test, the company aims to begin testing a larger 1.5 MW pilot by early 2025 and hopes to launch a commercial 24 MW turbine before 2030, which would be the largest offshore turbine in the world.
Bjørn Simonsen, the new CEO of WWW, expressed pride in the partnership with AF Gruppen and confirmed plans to explore further opportunities for collaboration. If successful, these innovative wind turbines could significantly reduce the cost of offshore wind energy, making it a more viable and sustainable option for generating electricity.
1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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