Wind generation re-imagined – the rise of small, duct-augmented turbines
17 January 2017
The Airsynergy wind turbine at Tayto Park uses a rotor and blades as well as a multi-bladed duct augmenter
Globally, we are beginning to grasp the potential that renewable-energy generation has. It is not simply a solution that is viable to design, specify and install; for many, it is now seen as economically preferable. The increasing demand for renewable-energy generation was highlighted in a recent report by the International Energy Agency, which stated that renewable-energy generation has surpassed coal as the main source of power capacity in 2015 in the European Union.
This only looks set to continue over the next 15 years or so: it has been predicted that by 2030, half of the EU’s electricity generation will come from renewables. What is more, by 2050, the EU has stated that its electricity should be completely carbon-free (1).
Of course, these are ambitious targets; the performance of each individual country will inevitably vary. According to a recently published Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) – an instrument designed to enhance transparency in international climate policies and highlight countries which have demonstrated a reduction in emission rates – it is Denmark, the UK, Sweden, Belgium and France that are the top performers within the EU.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are Estonia, Austria, Spain and Greece (2), who have demonstrated poor progress with regards to reducing overall carbon emissions. Factors such as political governance, the economy and the availability of renewable-energy technology can all impact the speed at which countries are able to adopt various climate policies and reduce emissions.
Although Ireland features highly on the performance scale at number 12, the country has been widely critiqued for its slow progress to integrate renewable-energy generation into its policies.
According to the Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland (SEAI), just 7.7 per cent of Ireland’s total primary energy requirements came from renewable energy sources in 2013, which is less than half of its target; which is for the country to produce 20 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020 (3). Investment in renewable energy production in Ireland must be increased.
COP22’s impact and decline in fossil fuels
Ireland is making marked changes to quicken its pace in adopting climate-change policies and creating a more sustainable future for its population. In November 2016, COP22 – or the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), as it is more formally known – was held in Marrakesh.
At the global climate change conference, Ireland (alongside 111 other countries) ratified the agreement to create pathways to limit the global temperature rise to under two degrees Celsius.
Here, each country was able to establish a framework to link global commitment with national and local action in the fight against climate change. In line with their commitment to the global agreement, Ireland also announced the passing of its first legislation on climate change titled Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act, an act that hopes to stop climate change in its tracks though mitigation.
To create a renewable-focused future for Ireland and, indeed the world, renewable-energy generation must outweigh fossil-fuel production. Many coal plants have succumbed to closures and conversions in recent years, and many will follow unless investment in new technologies to slash carbon emissions is completed.
This is the case in many countries, but it has impacted energy generation more acutely in the UK. Whilst coal generation has decreased by 7 per cent, renewable sources of energy such as wind, solar farms, hydroelectric and biomass accounted for 25 per cent of the UK’s electricity generation in 2015 (4).
The deployment of renewable energy technologies globally is not only helpful to the environment. It has also eased the dependency that countries have on coal and gas for energy, which will continue as the renewable energy market grows. If Europe avoids fossil-fuel imports, by 2030 the bloc could save around €60 billion each year (5).
Honing in again on the Irish market, the use of renewable energy in 2015, which was mostly provided by small and large scale wind turbines, saved Ireland €426 million that would have otherwise been spent on importing fossil fuels. This lessening reliance on unrenewable and damaging sources of energy has also meant that 3.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide was not emitted into the atmosphere (6) – positively impacting the climate.
Investing in renewable energy installation projects such as wind and solar ensures that countries have an insurance policy against unstable and often unaffordable gas and electricity prices. However, standard wind turbines can cause a headache for energy engineers as they are often deemed unreliable. A solution was required in the renewable energy sector that provided unrivalled security for both the engineer and the end-user.
Wind generation re-imagined
Two-in-one wind turbines that utilise revolutionary technology have been created to ensure the potential that wind power can offer is maximised. These newer wind turbines not only contain a standard rotor and blades, but also contain a multi-bladed duct augmenter.
This augmenter concentrates and amplifies air from the inside out, increasing the speed of the wind flowing past the two-bladed rotor system. This means that the system is able to cut in at significantly lower wind speeds when compared to conventional wind turbines.
The primary objection that engineers have regarding wind turbines has been wind intermittency. Are they able to provide regular, reliable energy – something that is crucial, especially in Ireland, where the consumption of energy has increased by 4.9 per cent in the last year alone? Turbines utilising this patented technology can generate energy in locations previously deemed unsuitable due to low wind speeds. With newly designed, innovative turbine technology, approximately 80 per cent of global wind sites can be utilised.
The performance of turbines utilising this revolutionary technology is quite outstanding, considering that they are often as small as a two-storey house in height. Due to the slightness of these small-scale turbines, no planning permission is often required. For those living or working close by to an installation, it is unobtrusive, increasing its overall appeal.
Due to their ability to magnify wind speeds, these wind turbines can increase power production performance by between 50-100 per cent compared to similar kilowatt capacity turbines that do not contain this technology, providing there are no obstructions to wind speed.
Importantly for engineers, this increase in power output not only makes turbines more affordable when compared to the grid price, but it also makes them the most cost-effective renewable-energy solution available.
Wind turbines which contain this aforementioned patented technology can be installed in a whole host of locations. Whether outside a commercial, public, agricultural or residential building, clean, affordable power can be generated. The installation is simple too, as the turbine’s foundation can be laid quickly, and commissioning of the turbine often takes just one day.
The energy market is in the midst of a sustained shift towards renewables, a shift of which engineers must take note. In the last decade alone, the global renewable-energy market has expanded more than six-fold (7). It has been predicted that this market will become the largest market that anyone has ever known.
Distributed power generation and micro grids are on the increase. Engineers must note that the future of the energy market lies in the collaborative approach to install solar panels alongside small-scale, duct-augmented wind turbines that provide immediate, viable, renewable and cost-effective power.
Case study: Tayto Park and Airsynergy wind turbine
Tayto Park is Ireland’s first theme park and contains enough thrills and spills to keep adults and children alike entertained. Situated twenty miles west of Dublin, its name originates from Ireland’s famous Tayto crisps.
Visitor numbers have steadily increased for Tayto Park since its opening in 2011, with yearly visitor numbers topping 800,000. Providing power for Tayto Park is a large-scale operation, and one which required a rethink if cost-effectiveness and sustainability were to be prioritised.
Utilising renewable power was an obvious solution and Airsynergy’s Total Energy Solution (TES) was chosen to provide power to Tayto Park via a ground-breaking wind turbine.
When asked why Tayto Park chose Airsynergy over other wind turbine providers, Raymond Coyle, CEO and founder of Tayto Park commented: “Airsynergy’s TES provided a particularly attractive opportunity for us as the wind turbine can produce 20,000 kWh per annum of renewable energy – double the power output of the other competitors we looked at.”
Airsynergy’s claims are backed up by patented technology. Its wind turbine differs from others on the market as it is comprised of a multi-bladed augmenter which concentrates and amplifies any air it attracts from the inside out, increasing the speed of wind flowing past the two-bladed rotor. This power generated at Tayto Park is fed directly into their grid. One wind turbine can provide power equivalent to that used in one of the theme park’s restaurants.
The TES was installed in Tayto Park in June 2016. When describing the installation, Coyle praised Airsynergy’s installation efforts: “If I had to describe the installation in one word, it would be painless. Due to the slightness of the turbine, no planning permission was required, and when Airsynergy arrived to install the turbine, it took just two days.”
He added: “It was a collaborative effort between ourselves and Airsynergy. Airsynergy provided us with training and information for our builders, who were then able to quickly and easily lay the foundations for the turbine, which was carried out before the installation to allow the concrete to set.”
The TES wind turbine provides the highest power output on the market and can equate to cost-savings of over €6,000 per year. Cost-savings are incredibly important to any business, as is sustainability and its overall aesthetics.
Tayto Park is a customer-facing environment and it was therefore crucial that the turbine blended in with the park surroundings and was aesthetically pleasing, Coyle added. “Although the TES turbine has been placed in one of the most prominent points in the park, it is not immediately visible to visitors, creates no noise pollution and certainly doesn’t overpower the park and its surroundings,” he said.
Whilst Tayto Park currently only has one of the TES turbines installed, this could be about to change. In six months, the park will review the success of the turbine. Coyle commented: “If the turbine generates the exponentially high level of power expected, then Tayto Park will not only continue to use the current TES product, but it will also give the go-ahead for 120 more turbines.”