The now-familiar sight of traditional propeller wind turbines could be replaced in the future with wind farms containing more compact and efficient vertical turbines.

New research from Oxford Brookes University has found that the vertical turbine design is far more efficient than traditional turbines in large scale wind farms, and when set in pairs the vertical turbines increase each other’s performance by up to 15%.

Vertical axis wind turbine farm with a grid pattern at sea. Image Credit: Oxford Brookes University. Click image for the largest view.

A research team from the School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics (ECM) at Oxford Brookes led by Professor Iakovos Tzanakis conducted an in-depth study using more than 11,500 hours of computer simulation to show that wind farms can perform more efficiently by substituting the traditional propeller type Horizontal Axis Wind Turbines (HAWTs), for compact Vertical Axis Wind Turbines (VAWTs). The research paper has been published in the journal Renewable Energy.

Vertical turbines are more efficient than traditional windmill turbines

The research demonstrated for the first time at a realistic scale, the potential of large scale VAWTs to out compete current HAWT wind farm turbines.

VAWTs spin around an axis vertical to the ground, and they exhibit the opposite behavior of the well-known propeller design (HAWTs). The research found that VAWTs increase each other’s performance when arranged in grid formations. Positioning wind turbines to maximize outputs is critical to the design of wind farms.

Professor Tzanakis commented, “This study evidences that the future of wind farms should be vertical. Vertical axis wind farm turbines can be designed to be much closer together, increasing their efficiency and ultimately lowering the prices of electricity. In the long run, VAWTs can help accelerate the green transition of our energy systems, so that more clean and sustainable energy comes from renewable sources.”

With the UK’s wind energy capacity expected to almost double by 2030, the findings are a stepping stone towards designing more efficient wind farms, understanding large scale wind energy harvesting techniques and ultimately improving the renewable energy technology to more quickly replace fossil fuels as sources of energy.

A Cost Effective Way to Meet Wind Power Targets

According to the Global Wind Report 2021, the world needs to be installing wind power three times faster over the next decade, in order to meet net zero targets and avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Lead author of the report and Bachelor of Engineering graduate Joachim Toftegaard Hansen commented: “Modern wind farms are one of the most efficient ways to generate green energy, however, they have one major flaw: as the wind approaches the front row of turbines, turbulence will be generated downstream. The turbulence is detrimental to the performance of the subsequent rows.

“In other words, the front row will convert about half the kinetic energy of the wind into electricity, whereas for the back row, that number is down to 25-30%. Each turbine costs more than £2 million/MW. As an engineer, it naturally occurred to me that there must be a more cost-effective way.”

The study is the first to comprehensively analyze many aspects of wind turbine performance, with regards to array angle, direction of rotation, turbine spacing, and number of rotors. It is also the first research to investigate whether the performance improvements hold true for three VAWT turbines set in a series.

Dr Mahak co-author of the article and Senior Lecturer in ECM commented, “The importance of using computational methods in understanding flow physics can’t be underestimated. These types of design and enhancement studies are a fraction of the cost compared to the huge experimental test facilities. This is particularly important at the initial design phase and is extremely useful for the industries trying to achieve maximum design efficiency and power output.”

For wind power enthusiasts vertical bladed turbines offer some valued advantages. Foremost is they are less expensive to build and maintain, require less land and their properties could cut back on the resistance being met and increasing from the people that have to live in close proximity to today’s horizontal models.

The U.S. in particular has yet to address the endless discomfort and reduction in quality of life that wind turbines force on those nearby, wildlife they destroy, and environmental damage done. Some evidence is coming in suggesting many people are being harmed in a slow but chronic way, and little if any consideration has been offered, while insultory distain dominates the primary response.

The research team plans to expand their research and dive deeper into the optimal wind power solutions. For enthusiasts, this could be very good news. But like any new development, when an economic quake occurs there is an economic tsunami and if wind energy is to survive, the technology has to improve greatly and quickly indeed.


2 Comments so far

  1. Jagdish on May 6, 2021 11:04 PM

    Vertical axis turbines are definitely more compact and manageable than oversized windmills now in vogue. However the wind should best be ducted and brought to ground level and exploited in a closed space for best working and safety. This could also enable use of wind energy as stored compressed air at lower cost.

  2. Steve Barbie on May 8, 2021 9:23 PM

    Not all that new a concept. Look at this video from 10 years ago:

    Caltech Researchers Find Wind-turbine Placement Produces 10-fold Power Increase

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