Turbine developments - Vertical axis 2MW design set for trial

Southern France will be home to one of the largest vertical-axis wind turbines ever made, the 2MW Vertiwind. The machine will be trialled near Marseilles later this year, although its final destination will be in deep waters offshore.

The EUR40 million project is being led by Lille-based designer Nenuphar, engineering company Technip and EDF EN, and has been underway since 2009. In 2010, the project received a EUR7 million grant from the French government as part of its 'Investing for the Future' programme and in 2011 the consortium trialled a 35kW model of the turbine. It is now moving ahead with the full size version before transferring it to the floating platform in 2014.

Vertical axis turbines have prompted mixed views when compared to a classic horizontal axis turbine. Indeed, Nenuphar CEO Charles Smadja said that based on performance alone, horizontal axis turbines would always be superior to their vertical axis equivalent.

However, Smadja believes that vertical-axis turbines come out on top in terms of cost of energy and installation. The low centre of gravity makes the machine more stable and minimises the gyroscopic effects. And, although the highest point of the turbine will be 105-metres above sea level, the substructure of the platform will only be nine metres under the water. Taller horizontal turbines are as much as five times deeper.

Vertiwind is not the only floating turbine currently in development at the moment. Vestas and Siemens are involved in the Windfloat and Hywind projects respectively. In terms of capacity, Vertiwind is broadly in line with these and other floating projects in working around the 2MW area.

The other vertical-axis offshore turbine in development is the UK's Aerogenerator-X 10MW turbine, which uses a Darrieus-type design. Although both turbines use different designs, they both face similar challenges with power output control in high winds. Smadja said the company would have a solution to this issue, but was unable to give further details.

Technip vice president renewable energy Stephane His said the total budget for the project would be EUR40 million. "If we are successful in the prototype phase then the next step is NER300 (EC) funding," he added.Presuming everything goes smoothly, the first turbine will be installed in the Mediterranean in 2013-14.

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