Advantages and Disadvantages of the Vertical Axis Wind Turbine Design

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When most people think of wind turbines they think of the most common form which is the horizontal axis wind turbine (HAWT). Today I’ll be introducing you to a design that is radically different and these devices are known as “vertical axis wind turbines”.

First let’s talk about the differences between these two designs. In a typical horizontally oriented design the rotor blades are situated perpendicular to the direction of the wind and the shaft of the motor is parallel to the wind. In a vertical axis wind turbine (VAWT), the blades are vertical or parallel with the pole or tower that the turbine is mounted on.

Some Advantages of Vertical Wind Turbines

  • More of these types of turbines can be installed on the same amount of land because as the wind passes through them not as much turbulence is created.
  • Due to the orientation of these devices, the entire shaft or pole can turn which makes it possible to mount the actual generator and other mechanisms at ground level. This makes the job of performing maintenance much easier.
  • VAWT’s don’t have to point into the wind to start up.
  • Devices of this design are more durable than horizontally oriented units. Because they don’t have to point into the wind, they don’t require a tail section to keep the rotor blade assembly pointing windward. During gusty wind conditions, these units are less likely to sustain damage than traditionally designed units.
  • They don’t need as much wind to generate power which means they can be installed closer to the ground.
  • The vertical orientation of the blades often results in these devices being quieter than standard turbines.
  • Since tall towers aren’t necessary, installation and maintenance costs are reduced.

Some Disadvantages of the Vertical Wind Generator Design

  • While this design is less likely to be damaged by gusty wind conditions, they are more likely to stall out and stop spinning.
  • These types of turbines aren’t typically well suited for use in areas of high wind speeds.
  • Due to the vertically oriented blade design, the blades tend to flex and twist as the rotor assembly spins faster and faster. The centrifugal force generated by the spinning blades has been reported to cause stress and fatigue on some blade designs that occasionally results in them breaking.

VAWT Wind Turbine Graphic

VAWT Wind Turbine Video

Here’s a short video made by a UK based company that manufactures a VAWT called the “quietrevolution qr5”.

If you would like to learn more about wind power, I suggest that you read either The Pros and Cons of Wind Power or How Wind Turbines Work To Generate Electricity.


One Response to “Advantages and Disadvantages of the Vertical Axis Wind Turbine Design”

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  1. David Huang says:

    Hello, Patty.

    How is 2012 so far?

    I didn’t see this blog until now. I think there is a very important efficiency issue in between HAWT and VAWT. For horizontal axis, all the blades create unique torque that is a combined force to turn the electrical generator in one direction. For vertical axis, the torque is the result of a bigger torque force overcome the smaller torque force, which is less efficient than the vertical axis configuration. This is because in VAWT, half of the sweep area will work against the other half, makes the overall efficiency in general less than 1/3 it should be. As you can see this fact in the animation.

    But one advantage is the potential of going higher with modular structure. For example, you can make a simple module of 2 meter in diameter, 10 meter high. By adding 10 modules, it will be 100 meters high. This is impossible to achieve by HAWT.

    The problem associated with VAWT you mentioned actuality proves my point. Though a structure of cage can fix the issues of stress and fatigue, efficiency issue far outweighs the rest. That is why most of wind farms around the world use 3 blades HAWT.

    Luckily, this problem in VAWT is no longer an issue. My company, Blue Energy Australia will publish the results some time at the end of 2012. Once it becomes commercialized, you will not see HAWT being built.

    Keep it touch with my website or through twitter.

    A little bit of teaser is now in YouTube:

    Best regard,

    David Huang

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