Tag Archives: Whalepower

Gamesa now teams up with Catch The Wind

Catch The Wind Inc. is on a roll.  It was only last month that it announced a large field trial of its Vindicator wind sensor with Canadian Hydro Developers, Canada’s largest independent wind developer. To follow that up, it is now reporting the formation of a collaborative R&D project with Gamesa, Spain’s biggest wind-turbine manufacturer and one of the top manufacturers in the world. Just to recap, the Vindicator is a sensor that can detect wind speeds and direction up to 1,000 metres away, giving a wind turbine’s control system enough time to adjust blades and nacelle position accordingly. Over time, this improves the efficiency of the turbine and reduces wear on components and blades. Gamesa has agreed to mount the Vindicator on one of its operating 2-megawatt turbines at a yet-to-be-announced wind farm in the United States. Phil Rogers, Catch The Wind’s CEO, called the partnership a “significant breakthrough.”

It’s often said there’s not much more innovation that can take place around wind technology, aside from tinkering at the edges, and that the big manufacturers have no incentive to change a formula works. But this teaming up of Gamesa and Catch The Wind shows that innovation is alive and strong and that even the majors, like Gamesa, are looking for ways to distinguish themselves in the market. Complacency is no longer an option. Others, including WhalePower, ExRo Technologies, Earthtronics, FloDesign, and secretive Lancaster Wind Energy are also raising the bar on what we can expect from wind technology over the coming years.

A Canadian roundup of underappreciated cleantech happenings

Toronto-based RuggedCom continues to defy the economic downturn and prove the smart grid is the market to be in by posting a 52 per cent increase in fourth-quarter revenue and 49 per cent increase in same period profits. For the fiscal year, the company’s profit jumped 154 per cent. The company’s annual revenue now tops $60 million, 63 per cent of which is coming from the utility industry through sales of smart-grid networking gear. Find me another company that has seen its stock value jump 75 per cent higher than what it traded at just before the October 2008 market crash. RuggedCom is indeed a rare bird. It’s why I’m always amazed to see the U.S. media ignoring this story. There is so much attention to Cisco getting into the smart grid that nobody has noticed that little RuggedCom leads the market in the sale of networking equipment for the grid, or that RuggedCom plans to leverage that leadership position and expand its presence throughout other aspects of grid modernization. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Cisco is doing its due diligence on RuggedCom as a possible acquisition. It fits the Cisco purchase profile, and compared to other smart-grid plays its P/E ratio isn’t that rich.

Another company that’s overlooked by U.S. media is Ottawa-based Cyrium Technologies, which just announced record performance from its commercially manufactured multi-junction solar cells, which are based on quantum dot technology. “Cyrium’s first generation solar cells offer efficiencies of 40 per cent or higher together with a nearly constant conversion efficiency for solar concentrations from 200 to greater than 1,000 suns,” the company said. This is a big deal, given that the other “records” touted to date, which range from 40.8 to 42.8 conversion efficiency (these claims are in dispute — see Wikipedia entry), have been limited to the lab. Cyrium, on the other hand, is actually manufacturing limited quantities of its cells for testing by potential customers. And the company isn’t resting on its laurels, either. “Cyrium anticipates its second generation product will reach 43 per cent efficiency within one year and third generation products are targeted to be at 45 per cent within two years,” the company said.

Meanwhile, Montreal-based Enerkem has been granted a permit to commence construction of what it’s calling the “world’s first commercial municipal waste-to-biofuels facility.” The $70 million facility, located in Edmonton, Alberta, will take municipal solid waste that’s left over after recycling and composting and will convert that waste into ethanol using Enerkem’s process. The project is a joint-venture between Enerkem (technology supplier) and Greenfield Ethanol (ethanol producer). “This unprecedented project is set to change the dynamics of the waste and fuel industries by making waste — that would otherwise be landfilled — a resource for transportation fuels,” said Enerkem CEO Vincent Chornet. I know I won’t be the only one following this project closely.

Finally, honorable mention goes to Toronto-based WhalePower, which has just made it as a finalist at the prestigious INDEX international design competition in Copehagen, Denmark. You may recall WhalePower’s new wind-turbine blade design, which is inspired by the humpback whale’s tubercle-line flipper. This bumpy leading edge gives the whale more agility in water. WhalePower has adapted the design to turbine blades, allowing for more efficient capture of wind energy and access to this energy at lower speeds. There are five categories in the Copenhagen competition, and the winner of each category gets 100,000 Euros. Winners will be selected in August and the winning designs will also become part of a touring show through Asia and Europe. WhalePower is competing in the “community” category against some tough competition, including Shai Agassi’s Better Place.

But enough with the bragging Canuck — let’s end on a more negative note. Continue reading A Canadian roundup of underappreciated cleantech happenings

WhalePower test confirms 20 per cent improvement in annualized energy production

I meant to report this earlier but got sidetracked. Toronto-based WhalePower, maker of the tubercle-lined turbine blades inspired by humpback whale flippers, got the results back from its first independent study in the field. The blade design was tested on a 25-kilowatt Wenvor Technologies turbine at the Wind Energy Institute of Canada. The institude found that annualized energy production from the retrofitted blade increased by an estimated 20 per cent. You can find the data here and analysis here. “Rated power was attained at 12.5 metres per second versus the 15 meters per second previously published performance for the unmodified Wenvor turbine. (Caveat: it’s an estimate because the test of the retrofitted blade followed International Electro-Technical Commission standards, while the benchmark data did not). “An improvement of just 1 or 2 per cent in AEP is significant,” said Stephen Dewar, WhalePower’s director of R&D. “Here we have about 20 per cent with low noise. We’re thrilled by this result.”

The next step, I imagine, is to perform a more comprehensive apples-to-apples test on a larger turbine. Hopefully these results will help the company raise the capital it needs to take its testing to the next level. Perhaps at some point it will begin catching the attention of some of the bigger wind-energy players.

WhalePower blades see first deployment in industrial fans

Since I first wrote about Toronto-based WhalePower nearly two years ago, the company has been working away in the background trying to improve its design and document its improved efficiency. The blades are designed to mimic the bumps or tubercles that line the leading edge of humpback whale flippers. The bumps allow the blades to capture more energy from the wind, and to capture that energy at lower wind speeds. (Click here for background story on the design’s benefits).

Stephen Dewar, co-founder and vice-president of business affairs at WhalePower, says the industrial fan blades are currently being showcased for the first time at the PROMAT trade show in Chicago this week. Envira-North Systems Ltd. of Seaforth, Ontario, has licensed the design for their industrial fans. “These are the first tubercle technology products to come to market,” said Dewar in an e-mail. He said the fans — which use 5 tubercle blades to move the same amount of air as a standard 10-blade unit — are at least 25 per cent more energy efficient. “They produce one fifth the noise of previous state-of-the-art fans (and) require 25 per cent less power.”

WhalePower is still working away on wind-turbine blades, and tests from the Wind Energy Institute of Canada should be completed shortly. Dewar has had an early peek at the results. “They’re terrific,” he teased.

Why the future of wind power looks better and better

My Clean Break column today takes a look at a few startups that are trying to make wind farms more reliable and productive. Most of the companies I’ve mentioned in the past — Whalepower (blade design that mimics humpback whale flippers); Premium Power (utility-scale zinc-bromide battery storage cheap enough to couple with wind turbines/farms); and Catch The Wind (LIDAR adapted for integration into wind turbines). In the column I also discuss Vancouver-based ExRo Technologies, which has developed a new kind of generator with a built-in electronic transmission rather than an external mechanical transmission. This is a potentially game-changing innovation. Continue reading Why the future of wind power looks better and better