Overseas interest in new turbine
After nearly 10 years of research and development, Dunedin company Powerhouse Wind’s revolutionary Thinair 102 single-bladed wind turbine is attracting international interest.
Company director Bill Currie says Powerhouse Wind has been commissioned to install a turbine at a remote school on Gela Island for the Solomon Island Association of Rural Training Centres (SIARTC).
The upcoming installation will be part of a power system which will also include photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, battery storage and an existing diesel generator which will only be used for back-up electricity.
SIARTC’s aim is to make life better for people who still want live rurally, rather than moving to the Solomon Island’s capital, Honiara, which is a 45 minute ferry ride away, and depopulating rural areas, Bill Currie says.
“It’s all about trying to make life better and more fulfilling for people that live remotely.”
Having continuous electricity creates the ability to read at night, better educational opportunities, and internet connectivity, which is life-changing for residents of the island. “It’s very exciting.”
Powerhouse Wind was initially contacted about the project by Catholic aid agency Caritas, the funders of the system.
Discussions with Caritas led to Powerhouse Wind providing a turnkey power system for the school.
“As we talked about it it seemed to make sense to turn that from being just a turbine to being a whole system; the turbine, the PV (solar) panels, the battery storage and the energy manager.”
Christchurch company Enatel have built an energy centre which comprises an energy manager, battery chargers and communications integration so the system can be remotely monitored.
Traditionally, wind turbines are constructed with multiple blades, attached to a fixed hub.
The Thinair 102’s single 1.8 metre carbon/ glass fibre epoxy hybrid blade is quieter than a multiple bladed turbine and has advantages in efficiency, manufacturing cost and reliability.
It has a freely teetering hub design that allows the blade’s angle to change in response to variations in wind speed.
As a result the Thinair turbine makes efficient use of strong and gusty wind, harnessing it to generate extra energy.
This approach is quieter than the traditional method of angling a rotor to the wind.
The inclusion of two equally-spaced counterweights balances the rotor and allows the machine to operate dynamically like a three bladed wind turbine while maintaining the advantages of a single blade.
Maximum power output is 2.5 kilowatts, enough to meet the energy requirements of a well-designed, energy-efficient home and performance-wise compares favourably to the best-performing overseas models.
The design is the brain-child of Powerhouse Wind founders, former Fisher & Paykel engineers Bill Currie, Peter Shaw and Wayne O’Hara, and Richard Butler who still works for F& P. With a shared passion for developing sustainable energy, the innovators began to discuss the idea of a wind turbine.
“When we decided to do the project we started from an absolutely blank sheet of paper; we had no preconception about what we wanted to do. We just wanted to build what would be the best turbine.”
The development of the turbine included field testing three units, working with Otago Polytechnic from 2013 to 2015 with the assistance of a Callaghan Innovation grant.
“We are very impressed with how we were supported by Otago Polytechnic, it was great.”
Powerhouse Wind has now sold 17 Thinair 102 units.
The Solomon Island’s installation is the second overseas order; the first was to Australia and the company is aiming to attract more international interest.
“There’s a great deal of interest to produce reliable systems that will provide power to small isolated groups of people.”
The school in Gela previously spent about half its budget in diesel for three hours of power a day.
With the installation of the power system there will be no ongoing cost of producing electricity, except for diesel generation if needed as a back-up.
Bill Currie expects there to be a further 12 to 15 similar projects in South Pacific in the short term.
The cost of installing a wind turbine in New Zealand is about $ 24,000, depending on the location.