Savonius wind turbines are a type of vertical-axis wind turbine (VAWT), used for converting the power of the wind into torque on a rotating shaft. They were invented by the Finnish engineer Sigurd J. Savonius in 1922. Johann Ernst Elias Bessler (born 1680) was the first to attempt to build a horizontal windmill of the Savonius type in the town of Furstenburg in Germany in 1745. He fell to his death whilst construction was under way. It was never completed but the building still exists.
Savonius turbines are one of the simplest turbines. Aerodynamically, they are drag-type devices, consisting of two or three scoops. Looking down on the rotor from above, a two-scoop machine would look like an "S" shape in cross section. Because of the curvature, the scoops experience less drag when moving against the wind than when moving with the wind. The differential drag causes the Savonius turbine to spin. Because they are drag-type devices, Savonius turbines extract much less of the wind's power than other similarly-sized lift-type turbines. Much of the swept area of a Savonius rotor is near the ground, making the overall energy extraction less effective due to lower wind speed at lower heights.
Savonius turbines are used whenever cost or reliability is much more important than efficiency. For example, most anemometers are Savonius turbines, because efficiency is completely irrelevant for that application. Much larger Savonius turbines have been used to generate electric power on deep-water buoys, which need small amounts of power and get very little maintenance. Design is simplified because, unlike horizontal-axis turbines, no pointing mechanism is required to allow for shifting wind direction and the turbine is self-starting. Savonius and other vertical-axis machines are not usually connected to electric power grids. They can sometimes have long helical scoops, to give smooth torque.
The most ubiquitous application of the Savonius wind turbine is the Flettner Ventilator which is commonly seen on the roofs of vans and buses and is used as a cooling device. The ventilator was developed by the German aircraft engineer Anton Flettner in the 1920s. It uses the Savonius wind turbine to drive an extractor fan. The vents are still manufactured in the UK by Flettner Ventilator Limited.
Small Savonius wind turbines are sometimes seen used as advertising signs where the rotation helps to draw attention to the item advertised. They sometimes feature a simple two-frame animation.
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- Savonius turbines for dynamic environments www.spinpower.org. Displayed at Make Fair 2008
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