PROVO — A Utah company has unveiled a working prototype of a transmission the inventor says could transform the nation's wind energy industry.
VMT Technologies' Universal Transmission could improve wind turbine efficiency by 5 to 10 percent, said VMT inventor Gary Lee. Moreover, the Universal Transmission can handle higher torque, which renders it more reliable than transmissions widely used in wind turbines throughout the world, he said.
That's a significant issue in the industry, where gear boxes break down after just three to five years of operation. That can translate into millions of dollars in repair costs, inoperable turbines and a reduction in captured energy.
The transmission could have implications for the Milford Wind Corridor project, now in its second stage. Phase I of FirstWind includes 97 turbines generating 204 megawatts. Millford II, at completion will have 68 turbines to generate 102 megawatts.
The proposed third phase could include up to 300 wind turbine generators.
This suggests that the Beehive State intends to further utilize this vast renewable resource, said VMT Technologies chief executive officer Richard Wilson.
"But, that is not going to happen until it becomes more profitable," Wilson said.
Wilson said designing a transmission that can eliminate torque spikes, thus enhancing its reliability, would be a boon to energy production and investment in the industry, which is largely subsidized by governments around the world.
"Yes, that would be very lucrative. But who cares if it's not exciting, too," said Lee. "If this is actually going to help the world to make a difference, that is kind of exciting."
If the technology could be refined to the point that wind energy could be utilized on a large-scale throughout the world, the political implications would be profound, Lee said.
The transmission, which can change through the equivalent of 30 gear ratios, also has applications in diesel engines.
Wilson said the VMT officials have met with transmission manufacturers Allison, Dana, Eaton and Magna, as well as Ford, Hyundai, Honda and Toyota. "Once one company manufactures it, everyone else will have to have it or be left behind," he said.
The Provo-based research and development firm was awarded a patent for the Universal Transmission on Feb. 22.