Horizontal axis wind turbines, also shortened to HAWT, are the common style that most of us think of when we think of a wind turbine. A HAWT has a similar design to a windmill, it has blades that look like a propeller that spin on the horizontal axis.
Horizontal axis wind turbines have the main rotor shaft and electrical generator at the top of a tower, and they must be pointed into the wind. Small turbines are pointed by a simple wind vane placed square with the rotor (blades), while large turbines generally use a wind sensor coupled with a servo motor to turn the turbine into the wind. Most large wind turbines have a gearbox, which turns the slow rotation of the rotor into a faster rotation that is more suitable to drive an electrical generator.
Since a tower produces turbulence behind it, the turbine is usually pointed upwind of the tower. Wind turbine blades are made stiff to prevent the blades from being pushed into the tower by high winds. Additionally, the blades are placed a considerable distance in front of the tower and are sometimes tilted up a small amount.
Downwind machines have been built, despite the problem of turbulence, because they don’t need an additional mechanism for keeping them in line with the wind. Additionally, in high winds the blades can be allowed to bend which reduces their swept area and thus their wind resistance. Since turbulence leads to fatigue failures, and reliability is so important, most HAWTs are upwind machines.
- The tall tower base allows access to stronger wind in sites with wind shear. In some wind shear sites, every ten meters up the wind speed can increase by 20% and the power output by 34%.
- High efficiency, since the blades always move perpendicularly to the wind, receiving power through the whole rotation. In contrast, all vertical axis wind turbines, and most proposed airborne wind turbine designs, involve various types of reciprocating actions, requiring airfoil surfaces to backtrack against the wind for part of the cycle. Backtracking against the wind leads to inherently lower efficiency.
- Massive tower construction is required to support the heavy blades, gearbox, and generator.
- Components of a horizontal axis wind turbine (gearbox, rotor shaft and brake assembly) being lifted into position.
- Their height makes them obtrusively visible across large areas, disrupting the appearance of the landscape and sometimes creating local opposition.
- Downwind variants suffer from fatigue and structural failure caused by turbulence when a blade passes through the tower’s wind shadow (for this reason, the majority of HAWTs use an upwind design, with the rotor facing the wind in front of the tower).
- HAWTs require an additional yaw control mechanism to turn the blades toward the wind.
- HAWTs generally require a braking or yawing device in high winds to stop the turbine from spinning and destroying or damaging itself.
- Cyclic Stresses & Vibration – When the turbine turns to face the wind, the rotating blades act like a gyroscope. As it pivots, gyroscopic precession tries to twist the turbine into a forward or backward somersault. For each blade on a wind generator’s turbine, force is at a minimum when the blade is horizontal and at a maximum when the blade is vertical. This cyclic twisting can quickly fatigue and crack the blade roots, hub and axle of the turbines.
Vertical axis wind turbines, as shortened to VAWTs, have the main rotor shaft arranged vertically. The main advantage of this arrangement is that the wind turbine does not need to be pointed into the wind. This is an advantage on sites where the wind direction is highly variable or has turbulent winds.
With a vertical axis, the generator and other primary components can be placed near the ground, so the tower does not need to support it, also makes maintenance easier. The main drawback of a VAWT is it generally creates drag when rotating into the wind.
It is difficult to mount vertical-axis turbines on towers, meaning they are often installed nearer to the base on which they rest, such as the ground or a building rooftop. The wind speed is slower at a lower altitude, so less wind energy is available for a given size turbine. Air flow near the ground and other objects can create turbulent flow, which can introduce issues of vibration, including noise and bearing wear which may increase the maintenance or shorten its service life. However, when a turbine is mounted on a rooftop, the building generally redirects wind over the roof, thus doubling the wind speed at the turbine. If the height of the rooftop mounted turbine tower is approximately 50% of the building height, this is near the optimum for maximum wind energy and minimum wind turbulence.
Traditional VAWT Advantages
- They can produce electricity in any wind direction.
- Strong supporting tower in not needed because generator, gearbox and other components are placed on the ground.
- Low production cost as compared to horizontal axis wind turbines.
- As there is no need of pointing turbine in wind direction to be efficient so yaw drive and pitch mechanism is not needed.
- Easy installation as compared to other wind turbine.
- Easy to transport from one place to other.
- Low maintenance costs.
- They can be installed in urban areas.
- Low risk for human and birds because blades moves at relatively low speeds.
- They are particularly suitable for areas with extreme weather conditions, like in the mountains where they can supply electricity to mountain huts.
Traditional VAWT Disadvantages
- As only one blade of the wind turbine works at a time, efficiency is very low compared to HAWTS.
- They need an initial push to start; this initial push that to make the blades start spinning on their own must be started by a small motor.
- When compared to horizontal axis wind turbines they are very less efficient because of the additional drag created when their blades rotate.
- They have relative high vibration because the air flow near the ground creates turbulent flow.
- Because of vibration, bearing wear increases which results in the increase of maintenance costs.
- They can create noise pollution.
- VAWTs may need guy wires to hold it up (guy wires are impractical and heavy in farm areas).