One of our client is a mid-size wind turbine manufacturer in Belgium that has developed two types of windmills: the normal wind turbine and a tilt-up and down model. Our consultant Claire joined the team last October as a Mechanical Engineer because the company had developed medium-sized wind turbine and is willing to develop the same but in a bigger size. The specificity of this company’s devices is their tilt-up and down system which is particularly easy to use:    

  • No cranes are needed to install them (thanks to the specific system, the wind turbine can be put down on the ground) 
  • Easy to transport (by shipping the pieces separately in a container) 
  • Low maintenance efforts (with components that do not require a lot of maintenance) 
  • Off-grid applications (for wind turbines exiled on far away islands, with optional short-term energy storage in development) 
  • Extreme weather protection (for high temperatures and typhoons). 

The medium-sized wind turbine has a power of 100kW (smaller than what we see on highways) and is about 40 meters high with 30 meter for the hub height and 20 meters for the rotor-diameter. It is two times smaller than large wind turbines. The large size will be 330kW and 33 meters for the rotor-diameter. The latter will be bigger in order to catch more wind. 

The company needed a Mechanical Engineer to design the new components of these windmills. As it is a scale-up wind turbine, they are using the same components but have to make them bigger, which also means more weight.  

By increasing the size of everything, the difficulty is to make the components more robust and as light as possible so that the system can still tilt-up and down. It is thus a structural problem that Claire is working on. 

The company currently has projects in Alaska, Singapore, Belgium and Vanuatu (Oceania) where they shipped their Tetris-stored wind turbines. In Alaska for example, it is convenient to have the tilt-up and down model as it is not very pleasant to climb up the turbine when it is –40°C. Thanks to this system, the wind turbine can be put on the floor for maintenance and then put back on its feet with the help of a winch. The pieces can be easily carried with the help of a a forklift. 

The turbine has the shape of a L as there is a lever arm allowing to incline the device. After putting the wind turbine back on its feet, all cables have to be attached all and anchored to make the device stand still.
The challenge for this scaled-up windmill is to keep the same possibilities as the medium-sized but in a bigger scale. You don’t see that kind of device on the market; it is quite singular.

According to Claire, the enjoyable part of this job is to spend time designing on her computermeasure everything precisely, and then to go on site to test what she created. She also gets to go see the suppliers to see how they work and create the components.