Monday, December 10, 2012
It's no secret the wind industry is taking an economic beating right now.
A new business model and the looming specter of federal tax credits possibly expiring this year has slowed manufacturing in the sector and all but halted job growth.
While it's hard to sugar-coat the predicament US Wind finds itself in these days, it's important to remember the mantra of controlling what you can instead of wasting worry on what you can't. This seems to be the underlying philosophy behind Windera Power System Inc's newest turbine system model.
What can Windera and other companies control? That would be the overall costs, not just of the product, but of maintenance and repair. Out of the "fleet" of American wind turbines currently operational (50GW worth as of August), about a quarter of them are down at anytime, usually due to malfunctions. Usually, repairs themselves can be expensive because the majority of the turbine's mechanical body is the gearbox in the nacelle (the piece of the turbine bearing the blades).
With this in mind, Windera Systems has introduced a completely different design; a hydraulic drive train that uses blade rotation to feed hydraulic pressure, then converts said pressure into electricity. This overrides the need for a conventional gearbox, and according to Windera, produces less wear-and-tear on the overall turbine, resulting in longer usage. While the nacelle still contains a hydraulic pump, the hydraulic motor is on ground level in a shipping container, along with the electrical generator (and in some cases a natural gas compressor. Yes, these models are designed to phase into natural gas infrastructure). This is a very crucial detail: any usual mechanical repairs now don't require the cost and use of a crane to get personnel to the nacelle. All it requires is a key to unlock the container.
Now is this going to solve all of the "windustry's" (I'm going to keep writing that till someone picks it up) problems in convincing the public- and more importantly, investors- that they're a real and profitable enterprise? Probably not. However, when I get pushback on defending wind as economically viable- and mind you, I get quite a lot of it- I try to point out to everyone the overlooked fact that since Nicephore Niepce built one in 1807, there have been at least thirty-seven different manifestations of the internal combustion engine (thirty-eight if you put any faith in Stanley Meyer's conspiratorial water-powered engine). Lots of those versions used tons of energy, had pitifully minimal output, and cost a fortune to ever be seriously considered for the market. Yet each one was essential to get us to the conventional models in today's automobiles. You can be sure wind turbines are just beginning to see these kinds of changes for the future.
Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.
Posted by Rotor Clip at 7:54 AM