Wind energy has been part of the race for the big money for quite some time now. There is nothing wrong with that. We need scaling up and reduction of costs. We need to reach sustainability goals. However, there is the other side of the coin as well. Scaling up to megawatt class turbines means wind energy is now affordable for urbanised areas in the world. But 90% of the Earth’s land surface is and remains rural with either no electricity grid or one that is so weak that it cannot support megawatt wind turbines. Some urbanised areas need local generation of electricity with smaller wind turbines as well. Small and medium wind turbines may also find their way to the market like bicycles in mobility. Even dekawatt wind turbines have a market in the areas of wireless sensors and telemetry. However, at fairs like HUSUMWind only a few of the 400 small and medium wind turbine manufacturers tend to be present.
By Frits Ogg, Renewable Energy Consultant, The Netherlands
Current manufacturers of megawatt wind turbines have a long history of also making small wind turbines. However, nowadays most of them only manufacture wind turbines of more than 1MW. They all act like multinationals, and they have to in our current economic system. But because of their knowledge of wind energy they also have a social responsibility to the 50% of the world’s population that lives in rural areas.
Some companies such as the Italian company MAIT are an exception. Besides its megawatt wind turbines, the company also has a 60kW wind turbine for local farmers. EasyWind with its 6kW machine is another exception which until now has always been present at Husum's fairs. Another interesting initiative is that from Piet Willem Chevalier, a Siemens Gamesa wind engineer. He promotes the Hugh Piggott DIY wind turbine for rural areas with no electricity (see i-love-wind.com).
Because of the small margins in the small and medium wind turbine industry and to compete with fossil fuels, maintenance should be as low as possible. Reliability is number one. This is a market for supplier industries. Condition monitoring is needed for reliability in combination with telecom or new techniques on communication like LoRa, with or without connection to (pico)satellites.
Small and medium wind turbines have to cooperate with solar photovoltaic and storage with energy management. Energy management is the silver bullet to success in small-scale hybrid systems with wind. This is proven by Siemens Gamesa with its test plant in Zaragoza (Spain), which shows that commercial goals can go hand in hand with rural development.
Small and medium wind turbines have to apply to power quality (harmonics) and SCADA systems as well. All combined this is a huge market and a market for retrofit and refurbishment for the wind industry. On the list of exhibitors of HUSUMWind 2017 alone, I managed to find DEIF, Mita-Teknik, Spica, B&R (ABB) and Bachmann.
All these developments within the small and medium wind turbine industry are an excellent opportunity for the wind turbine multinationals to fulfil their social responsibility with technical or financial support.