Kazakhstan firm designs new type of windmill for breezy gorge areas
Alok Tripathi
September 30th, 2012
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Kazakhstan has the highest wind-energy potential per capita of any country in the world, according to the United Nations Development Program.

That would seem to make it a natural for wind farms.

But there are a few catches. One is that Kazakhstan’s best wind potential is in gorges where speeds can reach near-gale force. Under such conditions, a conventional windmill shuts down to prevent damage.

Another catch is the high cost of the cables needed to connect conventional windmills to each other and the electrical grid. The fact that high-tower windmills must be spaced considerable distances from each other — for safety reasons – increases those costs.

Almaty power engineer Marat Kombarov has found a way to get around these problems. The founder of EcoWatt has designed a new kind of windmill that can operate without damage in high wind.

The compact design, which has won an international innovation award, also allows windmills to be placed close together in clusters to decrease the cost of transmission cables and to cut power-transmission loss.

Marat said his windmills will produce 25 to 30 percent more power than conventional models, since they will not have to be idled during high wind. They will also be cheaper to produce than standard windmills and will be able to be built in Kazakhstan, he said.

“Ideally, we’d like to have 100 percent Kazakh content in our windmills,” Marat said, “but we may have to import some components at first.

“Two (domestic) companies have already shown very keen interest in manufacturing our turbines,” he added. “They make plastics and plastic pipes,” expertise that will help produce windmills whose components will include sizable splashes of plastic.

The key differences between EcoWatt’s windmill and the high-tower version are the shape and orientation of the blades.

Marat’s shorter and wider blades are fixed along a horizontal shaft so they’re always oriented toward a gorge’s winds, which blow in only two directions – coming or going.

“We’re trying to capitalize on a niche for those wind sites where the wind blows in two alternating directions,” Marat said.

 

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