[Originally posted at EcoGeek. This is a cool way of further optimizing the investment in a wind turbine and extending its usefulness and productivity.]


A Colorado company is introducing a system that will allow wind turbines to generate power even when the wind is not blowing. The SmartGen hybrid gas-wind turbine enables wind turbines to produce energy at periods of low wind, by turning the turbine with compressed air generated at the base of the tower from a turbo-compressor that is run on natural gas or biogas.

Even more importantly, the SmartGen system can be retrofitted into existing wind turbines, allowing existing facilities to increase their performance. This is likely to be particularly compelling for installations seeking to extend their production while remaining free of fossil fuels. In areas where biogas production is also available nearby, a wind power facility that is generating renewable energy credits could likely also produce power from biogas in this manner as another form of renewable power and thereby remain 100% renewable energy based.

A smart clutch disengages the wind blades from the machinery when the compressor is engaged. The company also notes that the exhausted air from the air motor cools dramatically when it is released, which can help provide cooling for the generator nacelle and may even help prevent fires in the housing.

“Large wind turbines, even in good wind resource areas, typically generate rated power only 30% of the time because the wind blows intermittently or at a low wind velocity,” according to the company. Utilizing other fuels to keep the turbines generating power means that the system better employs the investment in equipment, instead of having it sit idle for much of the time.

via: North American Windpower