The winds of change
Almost 20 years ago, an ambitious idea sparked between two engineers in an office overlooking the towering gum trees of the University of Newcastle campus. The idea turned to talk; talk turned to action; and very soon, that same idea will be turning on the lights in remote villages of North-Western China.
Dr Philip Clausen and Dr David Wood’s enthusiasm drove their idea forward and four years later, they had constructed and mounted their first small wind turbine prototype at the Waratah Sub-Station.
To commercialise and market the small wind turbines on an international level, Wood traded his academic position at the University in 2004 to form Aerogenesis. Continuing his collaboration with Clausen, from the University’s Priority Research Centre for Energy, Wood and his business partners honed and fine-tuned the design of the turbines – evaluating different materials, blade shapes, fatigue strength, tower heights and control systems.
Combining this technology with standard, reliable and cost-effective components, the 5KW, 18 metre tall wind turbine has attracted the attention of the Australian Greenhouse Office, with Aerogenesis recently awarded a grant under the Asia-Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate.
Awarded for a demonstration program, the grant sponsors Aerogenesis for the erection of five turbines in Australia and China, the first of which will find its home on the University’s Callaghan campus.
"The purpose of the program is to demonstrate the technology and to complete the product development," Clausen said. "So, at the end of the program, we will have a turbine we know works well and has been certified to the highest international safety standards."
The technology begins with a patented blade design that optimises low wind and starting performance, as well as efficient power extraction and low noise. Designed using sophisticated computer optimisation software, the master moulds were machined by computer control for maximum dimensional accuracy. The blades were constructed with an advanced vacuum infusion method for strength and a fatigue life of more than 20 years.
The heart of the turbine is the rugged gear motor which can be cost effectively mass produced to a high quality; while the turbine’s controller, which has also been patented, is designed on the basis of a standard motor speed controller.
Next on the agenda for Aerogenesis and the University’s Priority Research Centre for Energy is a series of Village Electrification Schemes in remote West and North-Western China, where turbines are currently being produced and installation negotiations are underway.
While the blades and controllers will be made in Australia, the strategy behind Aerogenesis’s marketing is to couple potential projects in isolated areas with local manufacture.
"With Chinese provincial governments, we are working to supply electricity to villages that are not part of a grid," Wood said.
"In addition to teaching large labour forces the manufacturing side of the turbines, we will offer training to maintain them and supervise their operation."
Looking to the future the team is initiating negotiations with Indian governments based on the China model.