From Rooftops To Blimps, SolidWorks Software Drives Innovation In Wind Power
Miniature and Floating Turbines to Reduce Wind Power Costs and Turn Light Breezes Into Reliable Electricity
CONCORD, Mass., USA, June 15, 2009 – Located on house roofs or floating 900 feet above them, from remote villages to the local industrial park, a new generation of wind turbines is expanding wind power’s reach to any home or business that wants an environmentally friendly source of electricity. Two companies developing new wind turbines, MicroWind Technologies LLC. and Magenn Power Inc., were recently cited by SolidWorks CEO Jeff Ray as examples of innovators ushering in a new generation of cost-effective wind power. They are among several SolidWorks® 3D CAD software users stretching the boundaries of wind turbine designs and expanding wind power’s reach around the world.
Magenn and MicroWind confront a key obstacle to wind power’s growth; generating a steady stream of power from unpredictable winds. Burlington, Mass.-based MicroWind is developing a low-cost rooftop wind turbine that can generate electricity from winds as light as 10 mph. Ontario-based Magenn is working on a lighter-than-air wind turbine that floats 600-1,000 feet above the ground to catch the steady wind flows.
“MicroWind and Magenn demonstrate the kind of thinking that will make wind power a practical, economically feasible electricity source on a large scale,” Ray said. “The basic concept of generating power from wind has been around for centuries, but companies like MicroWind and Magenn are confronting engineering and design obstacles that have prevented it from working on a large scale – even if that large scale is actually a lot of small turbines working together.”
MicroWind Technologies is the creation of entrepreneur Michael Easton, a Tufts University-educated engineer. Easton designed the “residential scale” wind turbine as part of a research project, then started the company to develop it commercially. In 2008, MicroWind won first place in the Hellenic Business Network competition, second place in the Tufts 50K competition and received a grant from the Compton Foundation, raising enough seed money to start the venture. The MicroWind turbine, designed in SolidWorks® 3D CAD software, features a vertical axis configuration, which means the turbine’s axle is perpendicular to the ground instead of parallel. That orientation enables the turbine to generate electricity from slow winds. Two people can install the turbine, and its simplicity reduces the chance of damage and keeps maintenance and replacements costs low.
“The simpler it is to make, the less likely it is to break,” Easton said. “We used SolidWorks to design a simply constructed and aesthetically pleasing turbine that can fit into a residential or small business area.” The MicroWind turbine produces around 50 to 75 percent of the electricity an average home uses in a year.
Scottish residential turbine developer Windsave, another SolidWorks user, is developing a similar small turbine that homeowners can bolt onto their house. Like MicroWind’s, the Windsave turbine is designed for efficient, quiet, and vibration-free operation.
Magenn approaches the issue of fickle winds from a different angle. Instead of waiting for wind to come to it, Magenn’s MARS (Magenn Air Rotor System) turbine goes to the wind. It is a 50-x-120-foot lighter-than-air device that floats 600 to 1,000 feet above the ground to catch the jet stream currents present almost everywhere. MARS rotates to generate up to 100 kilowatts per hour, then feeds it down a tether to a grid or a battery array.
“Traditional fixed turbines work in 15 percent of the world. We’re the solution for the other 85 percent,” said Mac Brown, Magenn’s chief operating officer. “SolidWorks helps us experiment with different turbine configurations, compare their power outputs, and save thousands that we used to spend on outsourced simulation work.”
In addition to its popularity with emerging wind power companies, SolidWorks has a strong presence with established wind technology companies. Dutch offshore turbine developer Darwind is using SolidWorks to design offshore wind turbines with a patented magnet configuration that reduces up-front and maintenance costs. The British division of Ramboll Oil & Gas has used SolidWorks to design the foundations that support half of the world’s offshore wind power capacity.
“Wind power is entering a period of great growth and innovation. We will continue to highlight the best in wind power technology to encourage development of energy independence and reduced reliance on polluting fuels,” Ray said.
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