One of the creators behind a revolutionary wind turbine has high hopes the product will create benefits not just for New Zealanders, but also for less developed countries.
Dunedin-based Powerhouse Wind recently received a $368,000 grant from the Ministry of Science and Innovation to further develop the Thinair 102 turbine into a commercial reality.
Bill Currie, a partner at Powerhouse Wind, says the company is in the middle of a process that will eventually see its Thinair turbine on the market as a viable energy source.
Currie says the product is still at the field-test prototype stage, but through collaborating with Otago Polytechnic they hope to realise the turbine as a sustainable energy product that could potentially be launched into bigger markets such as India.
“[There’s a] good opportunity in countries where not everyone has the same access to power, like India and China, countries with still developing power systems,” Currie says.
The Thinair is a downwind, single-blade wind turbine designed to be a power-generating appliance for a house. It uses a single blade and a teetering hub as opposed to the normal multiple-blade, fixed hub models in large commercial turbines.
The single blade means lower manufacturing costs, and a quieter turbine that is capable of generating the same amount of power from the circle’s diameter as a three-blade turbine.
The teetering hub means the angle of the blade can change in response to different wind speeds, so the Thinair is protected in stormy conditions, and is more efficient at using strong winds.
According to Currie, the power input from the turbine could potentially provide about half of what an average household would use.
“Eventually, we hope to make a very economic machine because it’s using materials so efficiently,” Currie says.
He says the idea of generating power at your own home is relatively new. Although there are other small wind turbines on the market, the Thinair's design offers something different.
“We’ve got a very interesting package of a very quiet machine, that’s well-protected at very high wind speeds, and [that’s] light and economical.”
Of course, Currie acknowledges potential customers would need to have a section both windy enough and large enough (a minimum of half an acre) to take on the Thinair turbine. But he says the long-term benefits are worth it.
“Once people have a turbine, they would pretty much be guaranteeing their power into the future.”