Go big or go home, right? That seems to be the thinking at the University of Bath, which has headlined a report on a new renewable energy device design with the not-so-timid claim: “New hybrid technology set to change the future of renewables.”
The university is touting a design that combines wind and solar in a vertical-axis turbine configuration. It was developed by a company called McCamley Middle East, with input from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Bath, we’re told.
Bath and McCamley make assertions of superiority over horizontal-axis turbines: the turbine, they say, starts up in lighter winds, handles variations in wind direction better and can continue operating at very high wind speeds. These are familiar claims for vertical-axis turbines – as Michael Barnard points out in his excellent overview of VAWTs – and theoretically defensible to some degree. But why this design would be superior to other VAWTs, none of which have yet passed muster with the Small Wind Certification Council, BTW, isn’t clear.
On the website referred to by Bath, the company, McCamley Middle East, notes that it has been testing 1-kilowatt prototypes in Bulgaria and the UK, and is accepting orders for a 12-kW device “which will be available for delivery and installation by August 2013.”
Mind you, though, this is just a wind turbine; there’s nothing said there about any solar element, nor does the Bath release go into detail on that count. What type of panels, their generating capacity, their expected efficiency given the design parameters – no word on any of that.
There is some rational basis for combining solar and wind, as noted by the U.S. Department of Energy; wind and sun often come at opposite times of the day, so in off-grid situations, a combo system could provide power night and day. Southwest Windpower, now defunct, used to market a system that put a horizontal-axis turbine rated at 2.1 kW at the top of a pole and solar panels totaling 1.4 kW down the pole a bit.