Tiny Rooftop Turbine Could Make Urban Wind Farms A Reality

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There's a reason that wind farms are placed offshore rather than in urban areas—the turbines are typically huge, difficult to erect, and need a solid sustained gust to produce any meaningful amount of current. This prototype, on the other hand, will assemble easily and take up little space as it quietly produces kilowatts atop skyscrapers.

Conventional wind farms need wind that is both steady and strong but with very little turbulence. Their turbines are mounted atop 300-foot pylons to avoid the roiling currents at ground level and employ enormous blades to drive their MW generators. Everything operates on a grand scale with these farms, but they're impractical in an urban environment.

Yet cities can be so windy—tightly-packed buildings funnel and redirect natural air currents, resulting in irregular, gusty winds. That's exactly what conventional turbines can't handle. What's more, finding the real estate to safely install a 300-foot tall turbine in the middle of, say, New York City, is impossible. So a new vertical-axis turbine, the McCamley MT01 Mk2, is a designed specifically these dense urban areas.


The MT01 can run on winds as slow as 2m/s, beyond the cut-out range of conventional turbines. And even if the wind dies completely and the MT01 stops, it's self-starting design means that it won't have to draw power from the grid to get going again—any breeze over 1.8 m/s from any direction will set the blades spinning. Also, the vertical orientation of the blades greatly reduces noise and vibration. The generator's direct drive design doesn't require a gear box and can withstand gusts of virtually any speed. And at 12 feet in diameter and 10 feet tall, the MT012 is small enough to be tucked onto rooftops without destroying the skyline—it's roughly the size of old water cisterns already atop NYC buildings. An eight-legged support structure reduces the amount of roof reinforcement needed.

With an average wind speed of 12 m/s, the MT01 prototype can only produce 1KW of power. However, McCamley engineers believe, based on recent field tests in the town of Lyaskovets, Bulgaria, that the turbine can be scaled up to produce 24KW with the same amount of wind. It could potentially reach as much as 1MW. In the longer term, future iterations of the MT01 could also incorporate solar cells to generate additional power.


"The traditional wind farm models are just not effective and are certainly not suitable for urban environments." Dr Scott Elliott, CEO of McCamley UK Ltd said in a press statement, "This leaves a huge gap in the market where businesses, residential blocks and other organisations could be benefiting from clean energy. We believe that this design has the potential to be the new face of wind energy and is completely scalable, from 12kW designs to larger megawatt designs." [Gizmag - McCamley - Keele University]