CIRCE is coordinating the European SWIP project to promote the development and expansion of mini wind power in cities. The aim is to technically enhance vertical and horizontal axis wind turbines thanks to a new blade design that will reduce their weight and cost, and to improvements in their mechanical components that will reduce the noise and vibrations they generate. These innovations could be the key to combatting current social apprehension that is preventing a more widespread use of mini wind power in urban surroundings in general.
In doing so, electric generation points will be brought closer to the areas where energy will be consumed, thus minimising the need for large distribution infrastructures and reducing the size and complexity of the systems and their associated energy loss, all the while using a renewable energy source.
The SWIP project will render new technical solutions in the field of mini wind power in order to overcome the boundaries that are hindering its expansion. The project will be coordinated by the Research Centre for Energy Resources and Consumption (CIRCE) of the University of Zaragoza and has been granted a global budget of 6.5 million euros, 4.9 million of which are financed by the European Commission through the 7th Framework Programme.
This week, CIRCE organised the project’s opening meeting in Brussels, which was attended by 30 researchers from different companies, research centres and other organisations making up the SWIP project consortium. Altogether the project is made up of thirteen organisations from ten different countries (Spain, Lithuania, Sweden, France, Holland, Belgium, Ireland, England, Germany and Poland), who will be working on the project throughout its 44 month duration. The Spanish contingent is composed of the company Etulos Solute, FORES (a spin-off from CIRCE) and CIRCE itself.
The goals of the project are in line with those of the European Union in terms of penetrating the mini wind power market and generating employment in the sector. However, there is no prior experience in developing this type of energy source in urban environments and their surrounding areas. In this sense, SWIP is intended to be a decisive impulse in the worldwide spread of mini wind turbines.
In addition to designing new blades and mechanical components, new solutions will also be given to encourage aesthetic and structural integration in the construction of these wind turbines. Best practice guidelines and recommendations will also be laid down to ensure their optimal deployment in urban areas.
The above is also reinforced by other technological developments, such as an innovative and more precise wind prediction methodology than those currently used in urban areas, the creation of a new permanent magnet generator, and new monitoring and preventive maintenance systems. All of this will help increase the wind turbine’s performance by 9% and reduce maintenance costs to almost half, resulting in a smaller investment by the end user.
Three pilot facilities will be implemented to perform tests and validate results. Two of them will be situated in Poland, one in an industrial area and the other in an urban centre on the coast; the third will be located in Zaragoza, in a new building on the University of Zaragoza’s Rio Ebro Campus. The building will be erected within the framework of the European NEED4B project, also coordinated by CIRCE.
Experience with wind power
CIRCE has a wealth of experience in carrying out projects that provide technological innovation in the wind power sector. The aim of one of these initiatives – the AVER project – is to prove the viability of integrating wind power in the outermost points of the network, such as remote villages, mountain areas, etc. Within the project, several vertical axis wind turbines have been installed in the demonstration phase, one of which is located in CIRCE. There, the Centre performs tests and assays to improve electrical components and ensure optimal operation and supply parameters.