Although nearly all of the commercial scale wind turbines currently in operation are horizontal axis ones, with the advent of new technologies vertical axis wind turbine may be an attractive alternative in the future. The primary difference of a vertical axis wind turbine from a horizontal axis one is that the primary rotor shaft is set vertically while all the major generation components are placed at the turbine base. Currently there are three primary designs for vertical axis wind turbine: the savonius model, the darrieus model and the giromill model. The reason why vertical axis wind turbines are witnessing high levels of R&D activity in the recent past is the definite advantages they provide over conventional horizontal axis turbines.
One of the major advantages is that vertical axis wind turbine do not require any wind sensing or orientation mechanisms in order to generate electricity. This significantly reduces costs of manufacturing the turbine. Also as the major power generating components such as the gearbox and generator are located towards the base of the turbine, maintenance and repair activities on vertical axis wind turbine are relatively more convenient. Horizontal axis turbines have the vital components located on top of the tower structure which results in significant difficulties and safety hazards for repairmen. These vertical axis wind turbine also claim to require lesser wind to generate an equivalent amount of energy, and can hence be placed at lower altitudes where the wind velocity is generally lower. Overall numerous prospects of utilizing vertical axis wind turbine in small scale decentralized applications are being explored.
The primary things vertical axis wind turbine will need to cater to in order to be successful are its effective generation, useful life and maintenance requirements. The wind power industry is currently entering into a consolidation phase with economies of scale being the primary weapon of large market players. Electricity being a highly price elastic commodity, wind power generators needs to focus increasingly on reducing costs and increasing efficiency factors. With vertical axis wind turbine still not commercially developed, decentralized small scale applications are likely to be the best bet for these turbine manufacturers. Without highly positive test results and statistics it is unlikely that vertical axis wind turbine manufacturers will be able to commence large scale manufacturing. Without significant economies of scale benefits, it is not feasible to install utility scale vertical axis wind turbine as the cost of generation would be relatively higher compared to the existing multi megawatt horizontal axis turbines.
The majority of vertical axis wind turbine deployment we can expect within the forecast horizon is likely to be in the form of small pilot projects and for decentralized applications. North America and Europe are likely to drive the technological innovation and development of vertical axis wind turbine within the forecast horizon. Any large scale installations or deployment is likely to be observed in these regions as well. However with the retraction of the production tax credit scheme in the U.S., it is uncertain as to the extent of investments that can be expected in vertical axis wind turbine development. Installations in the Asia-Pacific are only likely to pick up once positive test results and significant technological development has been achieved in Europe and North America.
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