Cutting carbon in the military

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Long 'Life Bulb' illuminates replacement market
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A wind turbine inspired by traditional sailing technology has been developed by a UK start-up company which they estimate could save the British army up to £950,000 in fuel costs over five years.The turbine uses vertically mounted sails to generate power and works in much the same way as sailing a boat in a circle. The first prototype was part-funded by a collaborative initiative with the Ministry of Defence and Technology Strategy Board using the SBRI process.

Reducing fuel costs

Tradewind Turbines Ltd, a Devon based company, responded to a call from the Centre for Defence Enterprise (CDE) for new technology that could help Britain’s armed forces reduce its use of fossil fuels. The challenge was to reduce the energy requirements of a military base by providing an alternative to diesel generators without compromising the effectiveness of their operations.

Emergency power

While the use of sails to capture energy is not new, what makes the technology unique is the ability to control the amount of sail area. The Tradewind turbine uses flexible materials and rigging which allows it to handle strong winds and gusts. It is also exceptionally quiet.

This unique installation technology means that the turbine can be used in temporary bases anywhere in the world and could also be a useful tool for aid agencies to provide emergency power quickly and efficiently during disaster relief operations.

Military trials

The company identified specific concepts that will make a low RPM, high torque turbine technically and commercially viable. Early testing has confirmed the engineers’ design calculations that electricity can also be generated from relatively low wind speeds. The turbine is expected to produce 6,000 KWh in an average speed of 5 m/s, with a potential saving £950,000 in fuel costs over five years.

In June 2010 the proof of concept turbine was successfully demonstrated to representatives from the Ministry of Defence and Expeditionary Energy Office of the US Marine Corps. This model was also demonstrated in February 2011. A pre-production prototype including the self-deployment system was also developed and demonstrated at a MoD demonstration in Cyprus in July 2011.

As product development continues, the company is discussing the possibility of further trials with the US Military later in 2012. Tradewind believes that there is also a significant opportunity for deploying the turbine in a range of off-grid applications that exist particularly in the developing world. These include providing power to rural communities or isolated businesses, powering remote monitoring equipment and pumping water for irrigation or managing wetlands.

The company continues to refine the turbine design with the aim to reduce cost, weight and complexity and is now taking orders for delivery in summer 2012.

‘The CDE funding as well as the relationship we have established with the Programmes Technology Group in the MoD have been invaluable to the development of our turbine. Whilst the financial support was important, the input from a wide range of professionals has also been significant to our success.’




The Tradewind Turbine is the result of a response to the call for “The Self Sustaining Forward Operating Base” by the Centre for Defence Enterprise in May 2009. The call formed part of the Capability Vision-Reducing Operational Dependency on Fossil Fuels also launched in 2009. CDEworks with the SBRI process, supported by the Technology Strategy Board, to help connect them with businesses. The CDE acts as a gateway between the outside world and the Ministry of Defence, bringing together innovation and investment for the defence market and ensuring that frontline forces have the best battle-winning technologies for the future.

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Last updated on Monday 19 November 2012 at 10:55

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