Clarifying “What is a Paradigm?”

A paradigm is a set of beliefs that are based on a set of assumptions about what is real and true, and important.

In the wind industry, beginning in the 1990s, a set of assumptions grew that bigger was better. The belief that what was important about wind farms was the efficiency of each turbine. Research and development, therefore, was directed toward incremental improvements in turbine efficiency.

In addition, the idea of reducing ground turbulence and capturing the higher wind speeds at 100m+ in height inspired the industry to build every taller, every larger horizontal axis wind turbines (HAWTs). The underlying assumption has been that HAWTs are the most logical and viable approach to capturing maximum energy from high-wind resources.

A paradigm shift happens when a set of beliefs is challenged as a result of changes that dispute the facts under the key assumptions. In the case of wind energy, changes in technology and new research validate observations that were made as early as the early 1980s: Vertical axis wind turbines offered extraordinary possibilities if design innovation could resolve ground-level turbulence and there was an annual average wind speed of 6.5m/sec at a height of 10m above the ground.

Professor John O. Dabiri, at CalTech in Southern California, has done extensive research challenging the current wind energy paradigm, and under a grant from the MacArthur Foundation has published papers that if we start with a different question, the old paradigm is shown to be flawed. If we start with the questions, “What is the power density possible on a given piece of land?” His findings state that in 7m/sec annual wind areas, the theoretical limit of power is 68 watts/square meter. Current state-of-the-art HAWT technology is capturing 2.5 watts/square meter of land. This is not a typographical error: the theoretical maximum is 68 watts/square meter and we are currently recovering 2.5 watts/square meter. To listen to a 45 presentation from Dr. Dabiri, click here.

Wind Harvest teams see their Vertical Axis Wind Turbine Systems (WHI VAWT Systems) as complementary technology. For those who are interested in innovation theory and practice, WHI VAWT Systems may be seen as a disruptive technology in that they make new markets and create unexpected new opportunities. Certainly, as we review the summary of their attributes, they reflect that VAWTs will play an active role in the wind industry moving forward. WHI plans to lead in that future of wind.

Summary of Attributes of WHI VAWT Systems that Reflect a Paradigm Shift in Wind Energy

WHI VAWT Systems can go where prior technology could not go, and can serve needs that could not be served.

  • Low height profile:  18m as opposed to 130m of the Siemens 2.3MW—1/7 the height of HAWT and blending in with natural environment
  • Highly efficient turbines individually, that enable linear arrays to capture the couple vortex effect, raising efficiency even further
  • Lower footprint for installation and infrastructure
  • Modular, enabling design more easily adaptable to the site
  • Lower acoustic impact than HAWT
  • Avian and wildlife friendly
  • Similarly efficient when set up in linear arrays, utilizing the coupled vortex
  • Cost competitive with HAWTs
  • Local workers can be trained for installation/operations/maintenance
  • Regional qualified steel manufacturers can secure license to produce turbines – job development
  • Turbine System from a quality company with decades of field experience in VAWT wind energy