With energy prices falling in the short to medium-term, renewable energy needs to be able to reduce costs in Africa if it is to avoid being seen as an almost ran. This week Russell Southwood spoke to the Partner and Co-Founder of Tunsian start-up Saphon Energy Hassine Labaied about how it is innovating wind power technology.
Bladeless wind power technology seems to be on the brink of a breakthrough. There are endless extremely elegant and usually rather sculptural approaches, including one by an architectural company Mecanoo at the University of Delft. But none of these rather striking applications have gone much beyond prototype. This is what makes Saphon Energy interesting because it looks as if it will get the technology out of the door and to the customer.
How did the idea for the company come about?
Saphon Energy was created in 2011 by inventor Anis Aouini and myself, his partner Hassine Labaied in order to develop and promote a breakthrough innovation named the Saphonian, the zero-blade wind convertor.
Where did the bladeless convertor technology come from?
A: The bladeless convertor was invented and designed by Anis Aouini who challenged the existing conventional technology (bladed turbines) and came up with a radical new way of harnessing the wind energy which is largely inspired by the sailboat. Anis has substantially enhanced the initial design which moved through 5 different versions and has recently reached the industrial design stage.
What's the energy efficiency advantage over a blade technology?
The Saphonian is highly efficient on account of its revolutionary design and the use of a radical new 3D Aouinian kinematics. The Saphonian sail-shaped body is capable of capturing twice as much wind kinetic energy as a 3 blade turbine for the same swept area. Prototype' tests showed that the Saphonian's output efficiency level is 2.3 times as high as that of a bladed turbine. The aerodynamics features of the Saphonian make it more productive when used in wind parks.
What's the difference in cost between blade and bladeless technology?
As compared to the bladed turbine, the Saphonian is 45% cheaper to manufacturer as some of the most expensive parts have been replaced by affordable components. The Saphonian is also easy to maintain and fix.
What level of energy can a single unit generate?
This will depend on the size of the convertor. The Saphonian is perfectly scalable and apple to apple,it produces twice as much electricity as a bladed turbine with the same swept area.
Who are your existing customers? In Africa? Elsewhere?
We are at the pre-industrial stage and therefore, we don't have customers yet.
Who is the technology aimed at in customer terms?
The Saphonian target market is very large. It encompasses individuals (for customised small machines) as well as large wind farm developers (for medium and large machines). It could be used and connected to the grid or used in off the grid area. It could either be used to produce electricity, to pump water or used as a compressor for air conditioning. It could be used anywhere all over the world.
What is Microsoft contributing to your partnership?
Microsoft will be providing Saphon energy with financial means, technology support, and visibility at a global level to help it scale, validate its invention and launch it to the global market. The Microsoft partnership with Saphon Energy, via its 4Afrika initiative - is a great illustration of its commitment to promote new ideas born in Africa with the potential to change the world.
What can Maraya interface the Saphonian has do and why would a customer want to use it?
Saphon Energy has developed a smart application/interface named "Maraya v1.2" that enables the collection and the monitoring of large amount of data produced by the Saphonian. These data will then be treated and analysed to be used in developing various forecasting tools and stored using the cloud. The Saphonian as a smart machine that reconciles radical innovation in mechanics and aerodynamics with high-tech applications and solutions.
More details: www.saphonenergy.com