Vertical axis wind turbine passes R&D test here

Vertical axis wind turbine passes R&D test here

by -
Siemens Industry director of new technologies, Razvan Panati, center, explained to a group of reporters how Eastern Wind Power's (EWP) vertical axis wind turbine works on site at Martha's Vineyard Airport Wednesday. To his left is Linda Haar, EWP's vice president and chairman of the board, and at far right, Jonathan Haar, president and CEO. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Eastern Wind Power (EWP), a Cambridge-based green energy design and development company, announced Wednesday it is ready to move to production and marketing of a vertical axis wind turbine (VAWT), in partnership with Siemens Industry.

Jonathan Haar, EWP president and CEO, and his wife Linda Mogelli Haar, vice president and chairman, along with representatives from their design team and Siemens Industry, held a press conference for six reporters Wednesday at the Black Dog Tavern in Vineyard Haven.

EWP developed the Sky Farm™ 50 kilowatt (kW) wind turbine with the strength and stability to withstand accelerated winds on high-rise buildings, and with the versatility and mobility to be pole-mounted in open spaces, according to the Haars. EWP’s team of Cambridge and Boston based-aeronautical, mechanical, electronic and structural engineers designed, built, commissioned and tested a full-scale prototype for durability, and then followed up with a production model. Clear Carbon Components in Rhode Island manufactured both.

EWP erected its full-scale prototype Sky Farm™ 50 kilowatt wind turbine at a test site at Martha’s Vineyard Airport (MVA) in August 2010, with the permission of airport manager Sean Flynn.

“The airport kindly gave us a secure facility, which was very important to the project,” Mr. Haar said at the press conference. “We worked through all the safety testing and are now working on efficiency.

“We’re building a solid, safe workhorse that will last 20 years,” he added.

During Tropical Storm Sandy, the wind turbine withstood winds between 65 to 70 miles per hour, Mr. Haar said. It also withstood a wind test up to 110 miles per hour, using a twin engine Saab turbo prop plane at full throttle.

The airport site also proved convenient for the Haars, who divided their time between their homes in Chilmark and Cambridge during the wind turbine’s testing and development.

The turbine was fully commissioned with a connection to the grid in September 2011 and has been producing power for the airport ever since. In addition to wind, the airport site exposed the wind turbine to Martha’s Vineyard’s mix of salt air, rain and snow, which led to changes made in connection components and fittings to stainless steel, and additional waterproofing of the generator in the production model that was completed in September 2012 that replaced the prototype.

A new option

Ms. Haar credited her husband with coming up with the concept for EWP. “We came from the perspective of wanting to see a green energy option for urban populated areas,” she said. “We both worked in the field of planning and design and environmental planning in Boston, and we cared very much about where we as a city and other cities were going. But there is no green energy for cities. We need a new option.”

After a lot of research on the subject, they decided medium scale VAWTs in the 50- kilowatt range would work best in an urban setting and offer many advantages over a more familiar wind turbine, whose blades turn around a horizontal axis. So did Bo Tao, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at the Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, who Ms. Haar calls one of their “secret weapons.” Mr. Tao has served as EWP’s lead scientist since 2009, and he developed the wind turbine concept and came up with a design.

Among their advantages, VAWTs do not have to adjust to turn into the wind, so they don’t have the downtime that larger turbines do. They also do not have gearboxes and the mechanical issues that go along with those, Ms. Haar said.

“We’re seeing the marketplace that it’s becoming harder and harder to site big turbines, with aesthetics and noise becoming more of an issue,” she said. Compared to the bigger horizontal bladed turbines, VAWTs take up less space and they are quieter.

“One of the most important applications is these turbines can be spaced closely together,” Ms. Haar said. “You could put 10 to 12 on a high-rise building rooftop and have plenty of room.”

The Sky Farm has three 20-foot blades, made of a cross-woven carbon fiber composite and 20 feet in diameter. Although it could be pole-mounted at any height, It was initially designed with a 54-foot pole, which brings the total height of the turbine and pole together at just under 80 feet. The pole is made in three segments, so it will easily fit into a 20-foot standard shipping container or a freight elevator. The Sky Farm’s weight, including all of its components, is about 4,000 pounds.

EWP also has designed a mobile unit, described as a “turbine in a box,” for use in disaster relief, remote locations in developing countries with no energy infrastructure, areas where a micro-grid can be established, and military bases or sites where it would be dangerous and expensive to transport fuel.

Find a partner

Ms. Haar said one of the most frequent questions she is asked is how EWP and Siemens became partners, which Siemens director of new technologies Razvan Panati explained.

He said although Siemens is not in the business of producing small wind turbines, the company decided to get into the industry because it has the equipment available for such applications.

Mr. Panati and other Siemens representatives met the Haars and liked their presentation and business plan, as well as their innovative ideas, including the wind turbine’s mechanical setup.

“We thought it was a fantastic opportunity for us to really distinguish ourselves from classic horizontal blade type wind turbines, that are probably not suited for the small type applications, such as targeting buildings and areas which are populated,” Mr. Panati said. “So we thought, this is it, we should start trying to integrate our technologies together. We are here today telling you this is a success.”

Siemens offered EWP the complete drive train, which includes a generator and smart inverter, that captures power at any wind speed without a gearbox, he explained. The generator utilizes a specialized torque motor technology that allows very low-speed rotating mechanical systems to produce power at lower speeds.

Mr. Panati said Siemens also recently added a remote access feature that enables the inverter to be controlled electronically from any point in the world.

“Hopefully this will open up new small wind markets for Siemens, and it offers new smart technology we can market around the world,” Ms. Haar said. Currently there is no other 50 kW VAWT on the U.S. market.

Up until now, Ms. Haar said she and her husband have funded the project with the help of Mr. Haar’s mother, who made a generous investment in EWP. Many people also have donated their services to the company pro bono.

Ms. Haar said they are looking for a partner as they move towards production. Pricing for the turbine will be determined once the permanent molds are made for the turbine components, which will reduce the initial cost by about two thirds.

“Our objective is to get the cost per kilowatt to be competitive,” she said.

A trip to the airport to see the Sky Farm in operation followed the press conference.


  1. What a sham! Anyone who knows about wind, knows there is no energy in the low wind speeds found at that height. It doesn’t matter what you put there, at this height there is no energy to capture. This was not a real test by any stretch of the imagination. Eastern Wind Power and Seimens should be ashamed of themselves for such a scam. This is not new technology it is old failed technology rewrapped in a new package.

    1. Apparently you have never been to the airport. Every time I saw that device it was spinning very fast. I’m glad to read the story here explaining its success making electricity. It sure spins fast, unlike the ugly obtrusive windmills that are sprouting up around here and stand still most of the time.

      1. Just because its spinning it doesn’t mean its making electricity. The turbine on the Island that are up now are making copious amounts of electricity because they are tall and located well.

        1. I am always willing to give you a tour of the site and educate you on the 2013 version of the old ’70s VAWTs. Seems you have not tracked the changes that modern materials and interactive inverters can bring to the process.

          Also – it is located at the height it currently is as a test bed for parts, safety testing, longevity testing… but normally a 57′ pole would put it in clean air and producing full power.

          VAWTs do not kill birds or bats, make hardly any noise, do not flicker and are perfect for back-feeding the grid as one of many distributed energy sources – can even run solar into our inverter as a summer time “add”.

          Feel free to contact us for a tour if you are open to learning.

          Jonathan Haar
          Eastern Wind Power

          1. Hi Jonathan, I certainly appreciate your efforts and I’d love a tour but you can keep the “education”. Even on a 60 tower though you’ll never get clean air at most locations. Your comment about birds and bats is EXTREMELY offensive and implies that our existing small turbines kill birds and bats which is an outright falsehood. Please retract that statement from your literature it is misleading and only serves to harm the wind industry in general. I too was once a rookie believer in VAWTS but I have never seen one succeed.
            What you have done on MV is only a preliminary test. The turbine has not been tested to industry standards. For the sake of your company, I suggest you send a version of your turbine to an accredited small wind testing site and then you’ll be able to say you tested your machine.
            Let me know if you need help finding one I have connections with the SWCC.

          2. Also your open to learning comment is a bit agressive don’t you think? I’m open to new ideas certainly, but I know BS when I read it.

          3. Sorry but I can’t leave all this trash talk alone. I have followed the progress of interactive inverters and have seen first hand the smoking results. Give us a ring at Great Rock Windpower if you’d like to learn how to salvage your concept.

          4. Jonathan,

            As a veteran of the wind industry, I too take offense to your unsubstantiated claims about VAWTs, and the associated insinuation that the issues you mention are inherent problems for HAWTs.

            I also take exception to your claim that this unit serves as a test bed for “longevity testing” at this ridiculously low height, where it is not exposed to any sustained strong winds. This is like claiming a car has been tested for durability by backing it up and down the driveway for a year.

            There are standard, internationally accepted methods for testing wind turbine performance, duration, noise, and safety and function. I would advise your product undergo those tests if you hope to make it commercially successful.

            And I would advise any potential customers of this technology to insist on testing and certification of the product. It is the only means available for customers to objectively compare wind turbine products. To anyone who prefers to instead trust in marketing hype, I can only warn: caveat emptor.

            David Laino
            Windward Engineering

    2. Every time I have seen it, it has been spinning. It must be producing some electricity.

      1. Nope, just because it’s spinning doesn’t mean it’s producing electricity.
        Don’t get me wrong, I am a serious advocate for wind energy and renewable energy in general. I have many friends co workers and acquaintances in the wind industry. Any one of them with more than a year in the industry will tell you. Verticals are not the answer. They figured this out years ago. This is old news. Sorry

    3. You are right, for any wind turbine, 16 km/h (4.5 ms) should be considered the slowest speed and should be rated up front, not just at 40 km/h (11 ms) Anything less would be minimum applicable unless charging batteries in a remote location. Which, by the way, I would love to know what this 50 kw unit can do at 16 km/h.

      I just checked their website, the 2010 video and other pictures of the turbine at the airport shows the turbine at ground level and no turbine hooked up, so what everyone is seeing, is a freewheeling spin with no load. That is not a test that I’m interested in….

      So the picture above must be a very recently taken, with a generator attached.

  2. Ask Jay Leno. A vertical has been providing power to his huge automobile garage for the past few years. I recently observed a turbine test facility in Washington, DC on a scorching summer day. Interestingly the only thing moving was the vertical which was spinning away quite happily and silently at that. Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ambitious program to fit turbines to skyscrapers for free power featured verticals. There’s something to this, and I’m glad to see Mr Haar is trying out the thechnology on the Vineyard. I believe it takes open mindedness to create something of value and I hope people will remain so on this subject.

    1. Please do! Please ask Jay Leno how his Pacwind POS has worked out. Has it ever generated enough electricity to even pay for the shipping? All these vertical companies get investment dollars, build a turbine, sell a bunch to unsuspecting buyers, using subsidies that should be spent on viable technologies and then go bankrupt just like Pacwind.

  3. I get it Gary, loud and clear. You do not like vertical wind turbines, or companies who make them. Since you apparently rep another wind energy company, I have to wonder if some of your powerfully stated skepticism (“POS”, “BS”, “sham”) is motivated by business to business competiveness? Certainly no harm can come from this testbed on the island. If it fails to produce adequate measureable energy, then we can all move on. Still as a wind industry outsider, I need data before I can begin to formulate a judgement.

    1. Experienced folks within the Small Wind Industry are not patently against VAWTs or “enterprising designers”. If someone…ANYONE…from the VAWT or “breakthrough technology” community would put forth the testing and data backing their premature claims prior to marketing and sales of their equipment, we would embrace them. The industry has given these folks ample opportunity to prove their technology, but not a single one has delivered. No data…no testing…just selling. Not only that, but they then have the audacity to throw proven technology under the bus via straw-man arguments about birds, bats and aesthetics. This is why the line in the sand has been drawn. This is why anyone who has been installing for more than a year runs screaming from “breakthrough technology”. These companies are making unsubstantiated claims and then selling based on those claims…all at the expense of legitimate installers and proven technology, and at the expense of the unsuspecting public. For the record: Any HAWT designer that conducts themselves in the same manner as these “breakthrough technology” folks should also be subject to the wrath of the industry. We do not play favorites.

      BTW — I have no dog in this fight as I am not selling anyone’s equipment.

    2. ABSOLUTELY Chip! Show me some data please!
      I am not about representing any company though I certainly do work for a horizontal turbine manufacturer, but more than anything I want clean energy any way we can get it. My issue with VAWTS to date is that they trash proven technology with false claims and create illusions of the possibility to get energy from nothing. If this thing works then GREAT! But before you say it works you have to really test it. Send it to a 3rd party testing facility and then lets talk.

      1. This is not my project, but let’s all hope the testing at least shows some promise.