Hybrid turbine: for when the wind doesn't blow

A Colorado start-up looks to upgrade existing wind turbines with a biodiesel-powered back-up system.
Written by Melissa Mahony, Contributor on

Due to inconsistencies in wind velocity, some wind turbines can only generate electricity about 30 percent of the time.

But Hybrid Turbines Inc. might have the answer to making wind turbine generate power without wind, and without the use of fossil fuels. Earlier this summer, the Colorado-based company introduced their SmartGen system, which burns biogas, biodiesel (and natural gas) to fuel the back-up power system. The company says it could have old and new turbines generating power "at their rated capacity 100 percent of the time."

From Wind Today:

The 35 gigawatts (GW) of installed wind power capacity in America could be producing grid power 24/7.

The increased output of 25 GW (70% of 35 GW) represents the generation capacity of twenty-five 1,000 MW nuclear power plants.

This would of course depend on the patent-pending design working and being installed throughout the country's wind farms. According to Hybrid Turbines, the SmartGen system can be retrofitted for existing turbines, scaled between 3 and 100 kilowatts (possibly higher), and integrated into new turbine designs.

A turbo-compressor (above) located at the base of the turbine's tower draws in ambient air, compresses it and stores it in a tank. When winds are calm, the compressed air travels skyward to the turbo-air motor* connected to the electric generator.

Nick Verini, president of Hybrid Turbines Inc., says in a statement:

If a biofuel is used then the SmartGen™ system is 100% renewable energy based (wind and/or biofuel). Even if natural gas is used the electricity produced by SmartGen™ is twice as environmentally clean as burning coal. This will be increasingly important as we move to electric vehicles with batteries charged from the grid.

An automatic clutch disconnnects the wind turbine blades from the generator when the air motor is engaged.* To boot, once finished helping powering the generator, the expelled air helps cool the temperatures of the nacelle, preventing overheating and possible fires. (*edit)

Images: Hybrid Turbines Inc.
: Ecogeek

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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