A group of mechanical engineering students have come up with an idea they believe could allow wind turbines to harness more power.
"Typical turbines can only have a fixed radius so when winds are too strong, they need electrical equipment to slow them down," said Cassandra Rotar, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student at Lakehead University.
Rotar and her team have designed a vertical axis that will move according to wind speeds so turbines can maximize their power output.
On Tuesday the group of five received funding from Horizon Wind Inc., the developers of Big Thunder Wind Park, that will allow them to build a scaled-down model.
Rotar said they've been working all year on the project and the design is complete. They'll be able to start building the model next week.
The idea for the vertical axis turbine came from two group members who were out for dinner one night and drew the initial design on a napkin.
"We decided to get together and expand it," said Rotar.
"We used a smaller wind tunnel to do our calculations so far and everything is looking very promising."
The design will also be tested for residential use.
"The turbines we're building at Big Thunder Wind Park are very large turbines that need very specific wind conditions to operate," said Kathleen MacKenzie, director of community and public affairs for Horizon.
"These smart kids have come up with a turbine design that could be used in a variety of wind conditions and therefore could be used in a variety of applications - at the home, at a standalone business."
The company is still waiting on approval from the Ministry of the Environment before they can move forward with the Big Thunder Wind Park.
MacKenize said they expect to get final approval soon, but couldn't specify when that might be.