Latest technology fans future of wind energy


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A vertical axis wind turbine could tap into a plentiful energy source while creating much less environmental impact on wildlife and people.

A new type of wind turbine being developed at West Virginia University will be manufactured and produced by Fisher Energy, a Michigan-based firm with roots in the automobile industry.

West Virginia University, Advanced Technology Applications — a West Virginia company — and G T Technology (an agent for ATA) have signed an agreement with Fisher Energy, LLC, to manufacture and market the technology throughout the U.S.

James E. Smith, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, is the lead WVU researcher on the project, which began in 2007.

The first generation of wind turbines consists of large blades rotating around a horizontal axis, with the blades spinning in a vertical plane.

New method

Smith and fellow researchers have developed and patented a new method for augmenting the flow of air over the blades of the turbine. The new technology increases performance in varying wind speeds and directions, while creating much less environmental impact on wildlife and people.

Smith said that the vertical axis wind turbine will also be easier to adjust to accommodate changes in wind direction, unlike a horizontal axis wind turbine, which requires adjusting the entire assembly when the wind changes direction.

“Initial studies indicate this new turbine technology will require less wind power, making vertical axis wind turbines potentially more efficient and less costly to operate,” said Smith.

More electricity

“They will also operate over a greater range of wind speeds and produce more electricity than traditional turbines. Our focus is on the development of a high-performance wind turbine that will operate better at low-to-moderate wind conditions, as compared to traditional horizontal axis turbines, and at reduced costs in fabrication, installation, and maintenance,” he added.

In 2008, the Shenfei Group, a Chinese firm, agreed to produce and market the same technology in certain Asian countries.

Energy goal

“To decrease our nation’s dependence on foreign oil, the United States Department of Energy has set as its goal that 20 percent of the electricity in the nation will come from wind energy sources by the year 2030,” said Smith.

“We hope to contribute to that effort through this project, which increases the cost-effectiveness of wind power.”

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