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Only a few years ago small wind turbines were manufactured using simple mechanical design and control technology. Today this has evolved into increasingly high-tech products which compare well with larger systems. Currently small wind turbines are used mostly for the power supply of houses, geographical measuring stations or on boats, to support heating systems and feed power into home grids. Going beyond that, experts predict a prosperous future for wind energy in electricity production in developing countries.
The Antaris 2.5 small wind turbine looks set to have a great future - profiting both technically and economically from the Igus polymer plain bearings. Manufactured by Heyde Windtechnik, the system has a nominal output of 2.5kW for battery charging, and can be used for wind heating as a supplement to solar heating and to feed power into the home electricity system. In good wind conditions, it is claimed to be possible to practically halve energy costs for a single family home. In addition to this, there are many applications for small wind turbines in developing countries.
"I wanted to develop a system that is robust, can withstand storms, is free from maintenance, and, especially, is quiet," says company founder and managing director Michael Heyde. "This is especially important near residential areas, where other systems could not fulfil all these conditions. Naturally it should also be able to withstand all climatic conditions - from Greenland to the Sahara - and work safely even in major storms."
In order to achieve this safety in storms, a special mechanism was designed: the entire generator of the Antaris 2.5 system tips with the rotor upwards like a helicopter. This greatly reduces the surface the wind can hit and restricts output. The tip bearings of the rotor were selected from the range of Igus plain plastic bearings. Also, the unit uses flange bearings from the Igubal self- aligning range. The positive characteristics of the Igubal flange bearings made the decision easy for Heyde to use polymer bearings. "There are mass produced flange bearings made of metal, but these often need to be lubricated, because they corrode, or are too expensive for small wind turbines," He says. "I have not been able to find any comparable bearing to the maintenance-free, corrosion resistant, and economical Igubal bearings that has the right mix of characteristics."
In addition, they are easy to fit and are UV resistant. According to the experience of Heyde, the Igus bearings ensure the tipping function even in extreme storms with over 150km/h wind speed.
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