One of the major action areas for the Innovation Gateway Partners over the previous five years has been investment in renewable energy sources.
The primary focus has been on solar power, with Nottingham City Council, NatWest, Tesco and Unite Students having long-standing installations on their estates, with many aspirations for extending these installations to assist with the route to Net Zero.
Alongside this has been a burgeoning interest in wind power. The Partners are now looking at taking it beyond existing investment in large turbine installations and instead are investigating solutions that will work in their predominantly city-based estates.
There is a large potential in the way winds interacts with the unique features of modern cityscapes – for example, the fact that high-rise structures appear to generate wind tunnels between buildings that could be harnessed for additional renewable energy.
However, there are difficulties associated with urban wind installations that have slowed the uptake of turbines in these locations. These include the turbulent nature of air flow, low wind speeds, and strict planning laws.
When the air in urban environments is turbulent, it makes it difficult for traditional turbine designs, like the standard three-bladed Horizontal Axis Wind Turbine (HAWT), to take advantage of the power. The speed of air flow is also 20-30% lower in cities than offshore or countryside wind speeds, which makes for a challenging business case.
Vertical Axis Wind Turbines (VAWT) have shown more capability to harness the turbulent air of city landscapes, but they have their own drawbacks including lower efficiency and higher requirement for maintenance. It is undeniable that a new approach is required to make the most of this exciting opportunity.
While true innovation in urban wind power appears to be some years off, the Innovation Gateway research team has searched high and low to identify the most exciting opportunities currently in development that tackle the issues detailed above.
Innovations to look out for:
The Innovation Gateway and its Partners will continue to monitor this field for developments and are in discussions regarding some potential exciting trials in the next few months – watch this space!
As always, if you are aware of any innovative solutions in the wind power space, please do not hesitate to get in touch!
By Zoë Parminter, Head of Research