Irish Engineering Propels a New Kind of Wind Turbine
Ireland-based Airsynergy’s new turbines can double the power output for less than a 20% increase in the capital cost. This revolutionary and award-winning technology changes the wind turbine sector because it produces more energy with less wind. Airsynergy’s turbines are the world’s most powerful (for their size) and perform much better than traditional turbines at lower wind speeds. They can work efficiently even in low-wind countries such as Germany, effectively expanding the market of economically viable sites for wind turbine installation. The doubling of the power output for a modest increase in capital cost also makes wind energy cheaper than fossil fuels. Historically, renewable energy technologies have needed subsidies in order to make them financially viable – at least in the short term. However, new technology such as Airsynergy’s will soon make this a thing of the past. Airsynergy’s turbines are also quieter and smaller than conventional wind turbines.
By Adrian Kelly, Co-founder, Airsynergy, Ireland
Airsynergy founder Jim Smyth (Figure 1) first got the idea for his revolutionary wind turbine when he went to buy a traditional wind turbine to power his own home. He reckoned the traditional turbine’s performance could be improved by applying air management techniques that he had used in his earlier career as an engineer designing air-conditioning systems.
Driven by the theory that the augmentation of wind velocity by use of a circular shroud around the rotor blade could result in exponential increases in energy output, Smyth went to work. Soon he developed an initial design for the ‘Enhanced Wind Turbine’. In 2008 he founded Airsynergy, a renewable energy product development and licensing company.
According to field test results, Airsynergy’s design actually doubles the power output from a wind turbine for less than a 20% increase in capital cost. The shroud enhancement unit (the cowl system in front of the wind turbine) uses the wind to move, redirect and accelerate itself while simultaneously alleviating the pressure build-up problem that has blighted previous wind augmentation devices. Airsynergy’s 5kW turbine is currently undergoing independent power performance testing by DNV GL, the industry’s leading testing and certification body. Interim testing is confirming the Airsynergy turbine’s superior performance at low wind speeds when compared to other market-leading turbines. Airsynergy intends to publish DNV GL’s findings once their tests on power performance and the new technology have been completed. The independent testing and certification is a key part of Airsynergy’s business strategy as it will enhance the credibility of the claims the company is making for its technology.
The achievements of the company, which is based in Granard, Co. Longford, are already attracting attention both in Ireland and the USA. Airsynergy was recently short-listed for the Irish Times InterTradeIreland Innovation Awards. In 2013, Airsynergy received the Technology of the Year prize in the Engineers Ireland Excellence Awards. The award highlights innovative technological concepts created in Ireland or by an Irish engineer that clearly demonstrates a real impact on society coupled with an actual or future contribution to the economy. Jim Smyth said that he was delighted about the recognition, but that the company’s key focus was the delivery of its first products to the market before the end of 2014. ‘Our vision for the company is to help shape the future of energy production in the world making the move to wind energy a much easier and cost efficient choice,’ he added.
Airsynergy will not manufacture or distribute its turbines, but instead it will license its patented designs to qualified partners who will manufacture and install Airsynergy-designed products throughout the world. Airsynergy reckons the licensing business model allows for a global roll-out of its product and frees the management team to devote most of its energy on where its strengths and passions lie – in product design and engineering. The business model appears to be working. In 2013, Airsynergy entered into an exclusive licence agreement in the USA with New York-based Aris Renewables Energy, LLC. Airsynergy has granted Aris a royalty bearing patent licence to develop, manufacture and sell wind turbines and wind-powered streetlights using Airsynergy’s patented enhancement technologies. The licence covers the US and Caribbean markets. Aris is also acting as an agent for Airsynergy to secure other licensees in North and South America.
Aris is headed by Irish-American businessman Gerry Ryan, president and CEO of New York-based DGC Capital Contracting Group, whose clients include Donna Karan (DKNY), Bloomingdales, Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue. The Tipperary-born businessman, who moved to the USA almost 30 years ago, is a winner of the prestigious Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Ryan believes so much in the turbine technology that he has invested in Airsynergy and has joined the company’s board. The investment gives him the chance to invest in his native country (Figure 3). Ryan’s business partner in Aris is Dan Connors, a seasoned renewable energy entrepreneur who co-founded Aris Wind to introduce new patented wind turbine technology to the US and Caribbean markets.
EC Renewable Energy Targets
The decision by the European Commission earlier in 2014 to allow European Union member states more control over the amount of energy they generate from renewables was seen as a blow by some in the renewables sector amid fears that some countries would now abandon wind energy in favour of other options, such as nuclear and shale gas. But Airsynergy publicly welcomed the move on the grounds that it would mean that the best technology will drive the market in the future. Smyth said that, while government subsidies had been an important part of the renewable energy sector in the bid to reduce carbon emissions, the EC’s decision would mean that market forces and best technology would now drive the renewables sector. ‘The real debate about the true feasibility of the various renewable energy sources is now about to start and we believe that some of the newer wind technologies will compare favorably with traditional fossil fuels,’ he said.
Local and European Elections
Local and European elections being held in Ireland in May have given a platform to opponents of wind farms who have been voicing concerns to politicians about the impact of traditional wind turbines. While the noise of wind turbines is similar to the ambient noise of an urban area and is not harmful, many people have complained of problems such as disorientation and sleep disturbance from the noise emissions of nearby wind turbines. The public interest in the issue is not unhelpful to Airsynergy, which points outs that its enhancement unit has a muffling effect on the wind rotor system and reduces the level of noise emission. According to Smyth, ‘Opinion is split on the aesthetic appeal of wind turbines. While we cannot control subjective perception, the Airsynergy turbine can be constructed at much smaller sizes than its equivalent conventional counterparts and is therefore not as prevalent in its surrounding landscape’.
Against that background, it is hardly a surprise that one of the first things on Smyth’s mind when he established Airsynergy in Longford back in 2008 was to make sure no-one could steal his idea. He embarked on an aggressive global patent protection technology to make sure the company’s unique turbine design was protected by a number of granted patents in Ireland and across the globe.
Biography of the Author
Adrian Kelly (Figure 4) is a solicitor and holds an Advanced Diploma in intellectual property. He is co-founder and general counsel of Airsynergy, with responsibility for the protection of the global patents and roll-out of the international licensing strategy. Adrian was previously in private legal practice for 12 years as a solicitor with AB O’Reilly Dolan, one of the largest litigation practices in the northeast of Ireland, and as a Chartered Company Secretary oversees corporate compliance as well as the legal and commercial aspects of multinational licensing agreements.