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aberdeen uni
aberdeen uni

Powering Research with the University of Aberdeen

In 2021 the University of Aberdeen received a small grant of £1,872 from the Unlock Our Future Fund for a feasibility study to explore the potential of improving efficiency of micro power generation from Vertical Axis Wind Turbines (VAWT).

The project has a longer term aim of retrofitting the improved VAWTs into existing publicly owned sites and infrastructure, such as streetlights, to generate power locally.

The University of Aberdeen is one of the oldest universities in Scotland. It is ranked in the top 20 universities in the UK, with 75% of its research classified as ‘world leading’. Teaching is organised across 12 schools encompassing a broad range of disciplines. Multidisciplinary research institutes and centres bring together experts in their fields to work with colleagues across the UK and beyond. This project was led by the Business Department and delivered in partnership with staff and students from the School of Engineering.  

Small scale Vertical Axis Wind Turbines (VAWT) are available commercially from multiple suppliers at relatively low cost, depending on the specification. The feasibility study involved purchasing an existing VAWT and reverse engineering it to increase its generation capacity, improve its longevity and develop a prototype which could then be mass produced in Scotland. The project also funded a 3D printer which has been used to develop more effective turbine blades.

The design devised through the project research has created a dual turbine which has significantly improved the efficiency of generation and the capacity to withstand higher wind speeds, as well as the lifespan of the equipment.

With blades printed from recycled plastic, which can easily be replaced as required, the aim is to work with local companies in the northeast to transition to manufacture the new design and ultimately scale up to mass production.  

Although costs increased and further funding had to be secured, the project was successful and there is now a working prototype and the machinery is available to continue the research.

Turbine prototype
The project has been shared with students at high schools, university and local businesses and a case study is being developed to increase knowledge transfer to local companies and students. 

Furthermore the prototype will aid in attracting the next round of funding which will be required to start manufacture of turbine.

University staff see great potential for this and are now looking for manufacturing partners in the northeast and in Scotland generally. VAWTs are easy to install and relatively cheap. The researchers estimate that every home in Scotland could be powered with less than 50% of streetlights and telegraph poles wired up to VAWTs.

Mr Adam Smith, Director of Resources and Senior Lecturer – Entrepreneurship said:

Small grants such as these provide students and academics with the funding required to convert theory in practice and ideas in prototypes. Scotland's universities are the foundation of our countries entrepreneurial activity and grants accelerate innovation and drive our economic future prosperity.