Urban Green Energy (UGE) recently unveiled its newest vertical-axis wind turbine, the VisionAIR, as part of an installation at the Beijing International Garden Expo. The company confirmed to Gizmag that the VisionAIR is replacing its former 4K turbine, last seen adorning the top of an EV charging station, as its standard mid-sized option for customers. Compared with the previous model, the new turbine's design aims for better efficiency at moderate wind speeds, which UGE plans to integrate with its hybrid energy projects.
UGE spent over a year developing and testing the fiberglass blades to achieve a lightweight system. The blades were then manufactured at a new facility in a process that involved molding a series of resin-infused fibers.
According to the company, the assembled VisionAIR is built to last over 20 years and has already obtained a handful of certifications for its quality and safety features. UGE plans to incorporate VisionAIR with its SeamlessGrid power management system, which combines wind turbines and solar panels into one hybrid energy installation.
The new turbine is a tad larger than the 4K at 5.2 x 3.2 m (17.1 x 10.5 ft) and 756 kg (1,665 lbs), but the heftier size allows it to produce more energy overall while maintaining a small footprint. Even with the greater dimensions , the turbine still creates only a whisper-quiet noise level of 38 dB.
The VisionAIR actually generates less energy at 5.5 m/s winds (3,600 kWh/yr versus the 4K's 4,500 kWh/yr), but a lower rated wind speed might help it make up the difference. By dropping the rated wind speed from 12 m/s (26 mph) to 11 m/s (24 mph), the turbine reaches its maximum power output on slightly calmer days, leading to a higher average production over time. It may seem like a small change, but it could have a large impact under the right conditions.
What's in a power rating?
The 4K turbine's name was derived from its power rating of 4,000 W, raising the question of how the VisionAIR stacks up in comparison. When asked about the rated power output for the newer turbine though, UGE stated it doesn't wish to highlight that one particular stat, as the company feels it won't accurately represent its performance.
"We are purposefully stepping away from power rating of the turbine as this information can often be misinterpreted by customers," UGE's VP of Operations, Mateo Chaskel, told Gizmag. "In the past, manufacturers have simply thrown numbers for the power rating with very little standardization, under significantly different conditions, leading to numbers which can be easily misinterpreted. These power ratings have very little correlation to the energy customers actually expect. It's like purchasing a car based on a "rated speed" – it tells you very little about actual performance."
Editor's note: To borrow Chaskel's car analogy, this is like saying a car's top speed isn't a valid measure of its performance because it changes when you drive uphill, or through glue. A turbine's rated power may not tell you how much energy it will go on to produce, but it does tell you its maximum possible output at a given time, and if that's not useful, what is? Potentially not, in isolation, the quoted 3,600 kWh/yr of energy produced in a year, a figure entirely dependent on local conditions. Energy generation per year probably is the best indicator of wind turbine performance, but you need a lot of data from a wide variety of sites before it is useful, and there's no guarantee it will be applicable at any one particular site. At least power rating is a universal figure, and, as an at-a-glance indicator of a turbine's performance, extremely useful indeed.
VisionAIR is built to begin braking once its power production hit 3,200 watts, but apparently it is capable of generating more, depending on local conditions.
VisionAIR made its first public appearance on May 18th at the Beijing International Garden Expo for an installation that combined two turbines with 40 kW of solar panels to power the event's ticket center (apparently, the kW rating is a perfectly acceptable indicator of solar performance – Ed). UGE is currently accepting orders for its latest mid-sized wind turbine.