TouchWind BV, a company based in the Netherlands, is not your typical player in the wind energy industry.
Instead of focusing on creating larger wind turbines to harness more energy, TouchWind is revolutionizing the appearance of wind turbines. It’s doing this by replacing the traditional three-blade design with a single-blade wind turbine.
Traditionally, the wind energy industry has embraced the three-blade design for its turbines. As the demand for cleaner energy sources grows, these turbines are becoming larger and are being deployed in deeper waters, where the wind is stronger.
However, these turbine designs require modifications in offshore environments, including pitch control.
These additions increase the turbine’s cost and may result in shutdowns when wind speeds exceed the turbine’s specifications. TouchWind’s single-blade design tackles both of these challenges simultaneously.
The science behind the single-blade wind turbine
The blade is attached to the mast at a slight upward angle. When the wind is calm, the mast tilts and falls into the water, but a dangling buoy prevents it from going too far.
As the wind speed rises, the blade starts spinning and generates lift, pulling the mast upright. The buoy lifts out of the water and now acts as a counterweight to prevent the blade from spinning excessively.
By aligning the blade with the wind, the buoy prevents the blade from spinning too fast. The entire assembly floats on the water’s surface and is anchored to the seabed.
TouchWind claims that its turbine can operate in wind speeds of up to 70 meters per second (157 mph). In comparison, a traditional three-blade turbine needs to be shut down at wind speeds exceeding 25 meters per second (56 mph). This makes the TouchWind turbine 180% faster than conventional turbines.
Cost-effective and easy to maintain
Since this design eliminates the need for expensive pitch control systems, TouchWind states that manufacturing costs can be reduced by up to 30 percent. Additionally, the simplified structure makes it feasible to manufacture the turbine at the harbor, further reducing transportation costs.
The turbine, once assembled, can be easily transported from the harbor to the installation site. It then becomes operational after being anchored to the sea floor.
According to Interesting Engineering, a blade measuring 656 feet (200 m) is expected to produce 12 MW of electricity. This is enough to power approximately 15,000 households.
Managing turbines that are increasingly large and located farther out at sea is becoming very challenging. Harsh weather conditions can be encountered in deep-sea areas. Meanwhile, taller turbines require the use of cranes or helicopters for regular maintenance.
In TouchWind’s design, the maintenance team only needs to access the cable connecting the buoy and the rotor. When the rotor is not spinning, the assembly is closer to the water surface and can be serviced using a boat.
The company is currently conducting field tests on its small-scale designs in the Netherlands and has received investments from Mitsui OSK Lines, a Japanese shipping company. Mitsui also funded SeaWind (another wind turbine company) in 2022.
Specific information about the commercial launch of this technology is currently unavailable.
Image Source: Windpower Monthly, https://shorturl.at/bEV19