A MECHANICAL Engineering workshop piled with blade samples gives testimony to the work being done at NMMU in developing new designs for small-size wind turbine blades.

Whirring above the workshop is a R45 000 turbine, which feeds up to 2.8kW of energy into the University’s grid and serves as a test bed for the development of blades and systems designed for a gusty urban environment.

As part of his research, doctoral student Sean Poole is carefully monitoring how the turbine does its job, and how it can be improved through the use of differently designed blades. Poole has built himself a 3D printer to manufacture blade prototypes.

Small models of his design have successfully been tested in wind tunnels and Poole is currently working on full-size models for further testing in the field.

According to Mechanical Engineering Associate Professor Russell Phillips the blades are segmented, with each piece free to adapt quickly to changes in the wind speed and direction.

“It’s one of the innovations which could be made available to the private sector to commercialise for use in cities.”

NMMU will soon be adding another turbine to its grid thanks to Kestrel, which donated it for further research.

Kestrel is a subsidiary of Eveready.