Household-Size Darrieus VAWT Installation Photos

These archival photos document an installation sequence for a 8-kW prototype Darrieus wind turbine developed by Alcoa, the giant aluminum manufacturer in 1981.

The site is the farm of Art & Maxine Cook in Somerset County Pennsylvania. Art & Maxine were wind pioneers in western Pennsylvania during the late 1970s. In the background of some of these photos stands Northern Power’s 3 kW High Reliability wind turbine (HR3) on a truss tower.

Alcoa developed this unique design of cantilevered Darrieus as part of the spinoffs from the US VAWT research program by Sandia. Unlike other Darrieus turbines this model does not use guy wires to hold the turbine upright. Further, the torque or central tube was made from spiral welded drainage pipe in an attempt to cut fabrication costs.

While architecturally beautiful, the prototype was unsuccessful in this demonstration and commercialization of this model and its sister products were abandoned by Alcoa.

One problem with Darrieus or eggbeater (phi-configuration) VAWTs is that it is difficult to install them on tall towers. Note here the short tower. This design exhibited another problem with the cantilevered concept–it was a challenge to ensure that the top of the rotor spun true without the retention of a the guy cables.

Paul Vosburgh, Alcoa’s VAWT program manager, left Alcoa shortly after Alcoa abandoned wind turbine development to set up his own company, VAWTPOWER. The latter company failed after installing a small number of turbines on a wind farm in the San Gorgonio Pass near Palm Springs in the early 1980s.

I still have in my private collection some sections of the aluminum extrusions used for these wind turbines.