Promising High-Wind Sites Can Be Difficult to Develop

WHI Turbines are complementary with larger, HAWT turbine projects. However, promising wind farm sites have been difficult to permit for HAWT developers because of recurring challenges.

Visual Blight

Tall, horizontal axis turbines began to populate high-wind sites in the late 80s and early 90s.  In many regions around the world, people close to the turbines objected to what they call “visual blight.”  The pristine English countryside, according to many, is disrupted by the stark, tall, white turbines spinning and attracting attention.  Over the last two decades, resistance to the tall turbines being allowed close to communities has grown.  There are policies of local and national government that preclude new turbine installations, regardless of the high-wind resource.

WHI Vertical Axis Wind Turbine Systems (WHI VAWT Systems) may work to enable developers in large and small projects to secure a permit because of the low profile of the 18m tall turbines.  Placed in arrays, many will be virtually invisible from a distance, and thus objections may be overcome.  The conventional turbines, for example the Siemens 2.3MW turbine, has its hub at 80m, with the 101m rotor diameter, so that the tip of the blade, at the top of its arc, is 130m, or 7X as tall as the WHI turbines.

WHI Turbine

Wildlife Issues

Flyways of migratory birds raise caution about bird strikes as birds fly into tall, horizontal turbines. The sweep of the blades, and the intervals between the sweep appears to be only moderately visible to birds, and in some areas bird strikes have triggered denial of permits to set up wind farms in those flyways. It appears that not only is the height (130m from the ground for the top of the arc of the Siemens 2.3MW rotor) appear to be a problem, but also the intermittent swing of the rotor convinces the bird that the block has passed, and they do not anticipate the next rotor which may be out of their line of sight at the critical moment.

WHI VAWT Systems are designed to be placed in linear arrays of counter-rotating 18m tall turbines. The closely-spaced patterning of the arrays gives the migratory birds more “notice” that there is a visual pattern to avoid, as they avoid high-transmission lines.  WHI turbine blades are sprayed with special paint that is visually distinguished by birds.  The speed of the blades gives the appearance of a pulsing solid rather than an intermittent sweep as in the tall HAWTs.

Not only migratory birds, but endangered species can present permit problems. In the Tehachapi Mountains of Southern California, the bald eagle is endangered, and tall HAWTs have been held responsible for bird strikes.  Permitting agencies are concerned and not only can the permit process be delayed, but may be denied for high-wind sites. WHI VAWT Systems may overcome these permit objections.

Resistance From Neighbors

Impacting my view of our beautiful valley! Flickering lights are disturbing. The stark, white turbine towers catch our attention and don’t let go. We can’t “not look at them.”

Our quiet valley is not as quiet as it was. The sound and harmony of the energy in our area is disturbed, sometimes more than other times.

Birds are being hit. Who knows how other wildlife are impacted.

When one neighbor wants to build a turbine, we often have conflict in our village about private property rights and invasion of privacy of views. The agencies that permit or approves turbines struggle to make decisions that can be accepted.

WHI VAWT Systems offer alternatives for overcoming these various areas of resistant.  There is general acknowledgement that we need more renewable energy, wherever we can harvest it.  WHI offers communities, neighbors, developers, and permitting agencies new options.

Radar Interference and Drones

The increasing use of drone technology along with advancements in the sophistication/precision of radar is impacting the development of wind energy sites in areas proximate to air force bases and possibly airports. As technical improvements in radar and drone technology develop, even further limitations may begin to emerge.

WHI’s turbines are about 1/7 the height of conventional Siemens 2.3 MW turbines.

Height limitations were set in Southern California by the US Air Force for wind farm sites within a certain range of distances from their bases. The height restriction that was set was 26.5m high or 80 feet.  WHI VAWT Systems are 18m or 54 feet high, and thus qualify to provide energy for a major utility with a large (34% capacity factor) site close to the bases. Other utilities in the area are also beset with the same restrictions.

WHI VAWT Systems are able to provide more power and lower installation costs for these mountainous sites.

Site Impediments

Recently a large wind project on the Northern California coast near Ferndale was abandoned.  Ultimately, once the neighboring community’s objections were addressed, the years of engineering work and legal/regulatory issues were resolved, what ultimately stopped the project was access to get the turbine blades (50m+ in length) around the bends in the only road access.  The Pacific Coast Highway is famous for being narrow and winding….at the end of the day, the road work and excavation into the cliffs was cost prohibitive.  The wind resource at the top of the ridge was extremely promising, though.

Some sites have a topological structure ( mountains, cliffs, canyons, etc.) that make it extremely expensive to build out the roads and infrastructure. Even if the wind resource is high, any developer has to calculate the costs relative to the market price for the energy. Los Angeles Department of Water and Power built Pine Tree Wind Farm, as part of their renewable region in the Techachipi Mountains, east of Los Angeles. High wind resource coupled with state required renewable power targets justified extraordinary investment. The site is an example of a premier wind farm, yet the site costs were nearly double conventional build-out costs.

WHI VAWT Systems may offer developers new options for these difficult-to-develop sites.