single blade turbine

The Kiwi company taking on the wind with a small scale, single blade turbine

Renewable Energy

The answer may be blowing in the wind, or at least a single blade turbine.

A small Dunedin-based company is providing the answer to a very big problem.

“We want to make wind as accessible as solar for people with the right properties,” Bill Currie, of Powerhouse Wind, says.

He is one of the small team of developers behind the single blade Thinair turbine, believed to be the only manufacturer of turbines in the country

While sun is the most convenient and ubiquitous form of renewable energy, it has a particular problem for countries like New Zealand: winter.

However, a turbine can run all night, operate during a summer’s breeze.

The Thinair also differs ​from other single-bladed turbines in that it uses two counterweights, giving it numerous advantages and attracting interest  in New Zealand and overseas.

Those advantages include noise reduction, reliability, the ability to operate in high winds, and easy to pack and install.

Bill Currie, of Dunedin's Thinair.
Hamish McNeilly/Stuff

Bill Currie, of Dunedin’s Thinair.

A New Zealand-made turbine, tower, controller, an inverter or batter charger could be yours for under $20,000.

People could use the turbine to power their houses, ideally on lifestyle blocks, and even be able to feed back power into the grid.

“People have the potential to do really nicely out of it,” Currie said.

A close-up of the Thinair.

A close-up of the Thinair.

Currie, who had been off the grid for 18 years, had one of the turbines at his lifestyle block.

“The wind through the trees is more than the noise that the turbine makes.”

The company was founded in 2007, and over the past decade had received funding from the government agency Callaghan Innovation, crowd-funded more than $500,000 via a Pledgeme campaign and had a research partner in the form of Otago Polytechnic.

The tertiary institution also had a Thinair machine installed at its campus, one of 16 sold around the country and overseas, including Australia and the Solomon Islands.

The turbine in the Solomon Islands, funded by Caritas aid agency and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, helped create a remote power station in an isolated village.

Previously the village relied on a diesel generator, running for just three hours a day, but they now had “24 hour power”, Currie said.

“The first night they had the system installed they ran movies all night. A big projector showing action movies.”

While Kiwis were somewhat complacent in having 80 per cent of the country’s power being renewable, coal was still being used to dry milk powder and that didn’t sit well with Currie.

A recent report highlighted that the country needed to almost double its energy output, and apart from larger windfarms and geothermal schemes needed to electrify their homes.

That included solar panels and smaller wind turbines powering not only homes but even vehicles.

Thinair, made by a Dunedin-based turbine company, in action.

Thinair, made by a Dunedin-based turbine company, in action.

But for now the biggest issue for the company was working capital.

“Our ability to fund this business has been our biggest downfall really,” Currie said.

For early next year the company planned to build 10 machines, while learning how to make them in a “more continuous way”.

The Thinair had attracted overseas interest, and the export potential was exciting, he said.

Currie hoped the company would undergo a revolution like its own product, from a development company to sales and marketing.

“We are very confident with how it is operating and we would now like to get it to the point where it is working for people, and making wind a part of their lives.”

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