Harnessing the urban wind

  New Israeli technology improves turbine output and efficiency across the board and ensures that even in cities wind farms can generate clean and reliable power. Anyone who has ever watched a windmill knows that turbines can generate electricity. But …

 

New Israeli technology improves turbine output and efficiency across the board and ensures that even in cities wind farms can generate clean and reliable power.

Anyone who has ever watched a windmill knows that turbines can generate electricity. But because wind doesn’t blow at a steady or predictable speed, stable output is difficult to achieve. Furthermore, it’s costly to manufacture and maintain components that will stand up well to punishing gusts.

To meet the need for greater reliability and affordability, Variable Wind Solutions (VWS) was founded in Israel about three and a half years ago. Last fall, investors entrusted a total of $2.6 million to enable VWS to start piloting its proprietary electronic technology. The goal is to help transform wind power, at long last, into a practical and widespread source of clean energy, especially on urban wind farms.

VWS technology is geared toward improving turbine output and efficiency – while alleviating stress on components – in the fluctuating wind conditions of population centers.

It is particularly in such urban settings where technical and performance constraints, combined with the time and logistics associated with connecting to the grid, have prevented the application of small wind turbines to their full potential.

CEO and co-founder Ian Kaplan tells ISRAEL21c that VWS has begun work on a pilot project in California, with additional pilots in Israel, England and Denmark to follow.

Small wind turbine energy generates interest

“Solar and small wind turbine energy is generating great interest,” says Kaplan, a native South African raised in the US who has been living in Israel since 1994. “Our technology can work with any kind of rotor design, so we can easily partner with any small wind turbine company and use their existing rotor setup.”

If the pilot projects prove successful, Kaplan expects them to pave the way for commercialization. The ultimate goal is to enable urban wind farms to generate clean, reliable power using the pooled innovations of VWS and original equipment manufacturers.

Long involved in the field of sustainable development, Kaplan happened upon his venture while testing a small wind turbine that he and partner Gil Ziv built using funds from an angel investor.

“In the course of the project, we developed electronics based on technology used in large wind turbines,” he says. “And at the end of the day, we felt there was more potential in that aspect than in the turbines themselves.”

They added a chief technology officer and electronics engineer to their staff as they went through periods of reorienting and rethinking their ideas in search of the right investor. “You need to be somewhat optimistic as a startup entrepreneur, because you never know if the funding is coming,” Kaplan says.

Clean tech is not dependent on the price of oil

The Tel Aviv-based company is awaiting certification for its products. “If things go well, perhaps in four months we will be ready to go to market,” Kaplan states. “That’s the importance of lining up good pilot project partners to prove that our technology works.”

VWS is globally focused. “There is a growing realization that clean tech is not a fad like in the ‘70s, and not merely dependent on the price of oil,” Kaplan explains.

He is optimistic that the American Wind Energy Association’s small wind turbine standards due out by early next year will bring about greater accountability and transparency, allowing customers to compare products based on more than just manufacturers’ claims.

A burgeoning energy transmission and distribution infrastructure in the US could herald a bright future for wind power on small and large scales.

“While small wind is behind solar in terms of testing and installation, wind power is a market opportunity that justifies investment,” Kaplan asserts.