Myriad isn’t tilting at turbines
Meet the blade runners who want to transform wind energy production
Today’s startup isn’t the first hardware company we’ve covered, but it’s certainly the one with the biggest hardware. Scroll down to read all about Myriad Wind Energy Systems.
Meanwhile, I keep hearing how PreSeed Now continues to drive dealflow. Yesterday I heard from a startup that recently received multiple approaches from investors on the day they were featured. I’ve also just introduced a couple of founders previously featured to a podcast host looking for great guests.
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Wind turbines might just need a huge rethink
Wind turbines have become an increasingly common sight in our countryside and on our coastlines in recent decades. But despite rising demand for renewable energy, all is not rosy in the world of wind.
A recent Bloomberg report quoted one industry figure describing a “colossal market failure” due to what the report explained as “high raw material and logistics costs, changes in key clean-power subsidies, years of pressure on turbine prices and an expensive arms race to build ever-bigger machines.”
Glasgow-based Myriad Wind Energy Systems thinks it has the solution to many of these problems: radically redesigning the wind turbine design we know today. What if rather than one huge set of blades, you had lots of smaller ones? That way you could have a modular design that scales with demand and saves money.
“Instead of one massive rotor, what we've got is many smaller rotors on a lattice frame structure, and they're closely spaced together because that improves the aerodynamics”, says co-founder Adam Harris.
“People want bigger wind turbines, and there is a limit to how big you can build a wind turbine at the moment with the current technology because you can only build a blade so big before it starts falling over from its own weight.
“But with our approach, because we've got this frame, we think we can go a lot bigger in terms of the power rating of the wind turbine, and ultimately, that's what people really want. They want the biggest wind turbine that they can have to reduce the overall wind farm costs.”
In a spin
Manufacturing, transportation, and installation costs can be much lower when you take a modular approach, Harris argues. Myriad’s design will use less in the way of raw materials than a traditional wind turbine. And having multiple rotors means more resilience, with greater capacity for continuing to produce energy if there’s a fault.
“Compare that to what happens on a conventional design that we've got right now. If there's a problem, the whole thing goes down. [Some] wind turbines are so large and so powerful, that that's a lot of revenue lost. At the moment, offshore, you're looking possibly up to months before they manage to get someone out there and fix it.”
Harris says there are aerodynamic benefits to Myriad’s design. He cites a 2015 report by INNWIND (section 1.33 here), which says that 45 rotors, closely clustered, could lead to an 8% increase in power production. Harris says this is a significant gain compared to large companies in the space now trying to eke out 1% increases from existing designs.
Transport is an important point, too. The blades Myriad will work with are set to be a relatively compact 20 metres long. That’s significantly less unwieldy than trying to move something as big as this out to a remote location 👇
Transporting a modular system might make for a less visually impressive spectacle than that photo, but it’s bound to be a lot cheaper (and a lot less stressful for the driver!).
Bringing a new approach to life
Harris met his co-founders for Myriad—Peter Taylor and Paul Pirrie—while all three were taking part in the Conception X programme, which exists to turn PhD researchers into entrepreneurs (look out for links to previous articles where I’ve covered other startups launched through this programme). All three had a renewable energy focus to their work, but they decided to collaborate on turning Pirrie’s work on modular windfarms into a business.
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