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Wind Business: Stall control back on the market - First sales for Nordic 1 MW

American company Nordic Windpower is having some success commercialising its two-blade wind turbine, a 1 MW machine with Swedish antecedents (Windpower Monthly, November 2007).

Customers have signed up for 19 machines so far. The first three are headed for South America for a wind farm expansion in Uruguay and other customers include a military base in Arizona, two schools in Indiana, a municipal power plant in Iowa and a Minnesota housing development with a green power focus.

This year, the company expects to produce a dozen turbines at its Idaho production facility and another 40 next year, then ramp up to about 250 a year by 2011 or 2012. Nordic had expected to build 20 this year, but "the economy made us a little bit slower than we had hoped for," says the company's Kent Prentice. He attributes some of the slowdown to the company's focus on supplying the "community wind" market in America for local turbines owned by local people. "They use regional banks and some of those don't even exist anymore," he says.

On the other hand, says Nordic boss Tom Carbone, "The investors and lenders involved in the community wind sector have been more prudent in their investing and lending. They are not having the same headline issues that the big US banks are having due to poor lending practices and the sub-prime debacle." As a result, Nordic has found support for its business model focused on "the municipal utilities, inside-the-fence, schools and smaller independent power projects that Nordic is now supplying," says Carbone.

Nordic secured $3.5 million early this year from investors, including existing stakeholders Goldman Sachs and Impax Asset Management, to pay for production of early machines. Building in small quantities can mean finding suppliers out of the mainstream, but Nordic's launch, was well timed in that respect, says Carbone, coming just as the market slowed. "The short-term over-building of capacity in the wind sector has opened up some very interesting opportunities for Nordic to get access to top tier suppliers. Our supplier selection has been nothing short of amazing - every single main component of the N1000 wind turbine is coming from recognised leaders in their respective sectors," says Carbone.

Components are coming from America, China, South Korea, Europe and Latin America and are booked through 2011. Blades for the Nordic 1 MW unit will come from Kemrock Industries in Gujarat, India, a glassfibre products firm. Power control on the lightweight and flexible turbine is achieved aerodynamically by blades designed to stall as required and fitted with tip brakes to ensure the rotor can stop on command.

Across the wind industry, the simplicity of stall control has gone out fashion in favour of pitching the blades using electronic control systems as these have improved and become cheaper. But Nordic believes that a correctly designed two-blade turbine with stall control can reduce drivetrain, yaw and other structural loads and achieve higher reliability at lower weight, and hence cost, compared to conventional fixed-hub turbines, says the company's head of technology, Charles Gamble.

Two blades also represents big savings, says Prentice. Unlike a three-blade unit, two can fit on one truck and cost less overall. The lightweight turbines can also be raised with a smaller crane that can be driven to a site. "That's $17,000 worth of truck and $200,000 worth of crane that you're cutting out," says Prentice. Fully installed, the Nordic costs about $2 million.

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