Agile Wind Power – Decentralised Wind Power
Agile Wind Power is showing us the future of wind power, but not as we know it.
When you hear the phrase “wind power” it is pretty easy to guess what image has popped into your head. Wide green fields. Spinning wind turbines making a loud “Thrum, thrum thrum” noise. Not-in-my-backyard types writing angry letters and petitions to local government.
However, talking to Patrick Richter, the CEO of Agile Wind Power, it is clear he has a very different vision for the future of the wind power sector.
The most immediate difference between Agile Wind Power’s turbines and the ones you are imagining is a question of orientation. Using Vertical Sky technology, Agile Wind Power has designed turbines on a vertical axis- vertically placed parallel blades rotating around the central axis, rather than radiating from a horizontal one. This, in itself, is nothing new.
“They existed for a very long time, but mainly they are very small machines,” Richter says. “Vertical Sky technology does not belong to the small wind power category. We are focusing on applications for commercial power production. Our rated capacity is very high, and our turbines are very large. The smallest we have is a bit more than 100 metres. So, we’re the first vertical axis turbines in a large scale/industrial scale format.”
The vertical orientation is not just for the sake of it, it brings material advantages to the turbine, including three times less noise than a traditional turbine, and a motion that is less risky for birds and bats. It also gives off less of the shadow flicker effect associated with traditional wind turbines and offers better use of space.
This means less pushback from communities and permitting authorities when trying to get turbines constructed, shortening development times. It is the result of a tough development process.
“It wasn’t possible to enlarge vertical axis wind turbines before. It meant overcoming a lot of technical challenges,” Richter tells us. “We developed a core technology that can overcome those challenges, a pitch control system that adjusts the rotor blades in relation to the wind flow, reducing stress and vibrations that occur to that type of turbine, making it the door opener for increased use of vertical axis wind turbines.”
And yet, driving through the countryside, you are unlikely to see these vertical wind turbines in any wind farm in the foreseeable future.
“Our turbines are big enough to produce power economically for energy-intensive applications, but we aren’t planning implementation through wind farms,” Richter explains. “We’re behind meter operations, water treatment facilities, data centres, manufacturing companies. Operations producing power for their own consumption.”
Richter is advocating for a whole new way of looking at power infrastructure. He is not just arguing for a move away from wind farms, but a move away from large, centralised power plants of all kinds.
“When you look at the whole energy transition, it’s clear that to realise the transition into a 100% renewable economy it is important to produce more and more power on-site, decentralised and distributed,” he says. “Wind energy has mainly been used in the context of the old methods of power production and distribution which is centralised production. All the power plants today, built well into the 90s, were placed for central large power plants. Whether they were nuclear, gas or coal, these centralised plants feed power into the grid to be distributed to the local houses and industries and commercial customers.”
A Combined Solution
Neither is Richter arguing for a one-size-fits-all approach. Rather than there being one solution to providing sustainable power, Richter foresees a variety of overlapping solutions.
“When you want to use renewable energy, you have the challenge that renewables cannot do production in a steady fashion, because it depends on when the wind blows, or the sun shines, and that is very difficult if you want centralised production,” he points out. “But you can overcome all of these challenges when you go more decentralised. When you use different renewable energy sources, wind, hydro, and solar, they are very good additions to each other. It’s complimentary, not competitive.”
Agile Wind Power’s large wind turbines offer a reliable energy source using technology developed over the last 30 years. It is now one of the cheapest technologies to produce power on a commercial level. Richter also points out that these turbines will be an essential tool for building a new, decentralised power distribution model.
“Wind farm turbines aren’t good for providing decentralised power. They are loud, they are big and nobody wants to live very close to a 4mw wind turbine,” Richter says. “Which I can fully understand but it makes sense from a power generation perspective and bringing higher value power generation. What we overcome with our technology is all these obstacles to acceptance. With three times less noise, you cannot hear anything from our turbine if you stand beside it. This opens up new possibilities for the technology which you cannot pursue with traditional wind turbines. We see high demand worldwide for that. We have partners developing renewable energy projects in the decentralised sector, with a lot of questions and demands from customers for larger applications, industrial applications, greenhouses, and agriculture. A lot of older industries like concrete, steel, all these industries have very high-power demands, and with wind power, we can bring very good additional capacity to what they already have with solar power.”
Currently, Agile Wind Power can point to several dozen examples of water treatment plants in Germany facing demand to produce power for themselves with wind power. Many have been unable to get the permit for a wind turbine because of the local pushback those turbines entail. Now with Agile Wind Power’s technology, they have the chance to realise that vision.
“We’re addressing a completely different market, not the traditional wind power market focused on windfarms. We’re not competing with those manufacturers,” Richter explains. “Our market is the growing market of decentralised power generation. 100% renewable energy production is only possible with a decentralised energy economy. We need a mix of renewable energy sources managed by IT solutions in a decentralised main grid, but at the moment there’s no technology to use wind economically and our technology fits perfectly into that niche.”