An Exeter firm has designed a new small vertical-axis wind turbine (VAWT) that uses sailing technology to overcome the performance and structural limitations of conventional VAWT designs.

Tradewind Turbines says that its design is efficient in low wind speeds and outperforms both propeller-type horizontal axis wind turbines (HAWT) and other VAWT designs of a similar size.

“Our design furls and unfurls the sails, changing the amount of swept surface area presented to the wind, according to the speed and variability of the wind conditions,” says business development director Simon Moorman. “The sails – and the booms they are attached to – also automatically go to a minimal profile position in high wind conditions to protect the turbine.”

Tradewind Turbines’ first model is the appropriately named Square Rigger, which is currently being trialled at Clinton Devon Estates. “Standing just 10m high, it makes little visual impact upon the landscape,” said Mr Moorman. “Environmentalists and planners prefer its quiet, slow revolving operation. We can also brand the sails or camouflage them against their background.”

The energy captured by the turbine can be used to generate electricity or provide direct mechanical power for devices such as pumps, via a pto. The turbine’s design also means it is ideal for developing-world locations, says Mr Moorman. In fact the company’s first order has come from Kenya and is to provide power for a remote medical clinic in a game reserve.

The company is now seeking manufacturing and distribution partners both in the UK and overseas. “We are particularly interested in partnering with farm machinery manufacturers,” says Mr Moorman. “The turbine’s engineering and markets are highly compatible.” He can be contacted on simon@twturbines.com.

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