A new wind turbine by renewable energy firm McCamley UK in Staffordshire, England, may soon be changing the sound and shape of the urban landscape. The firm’s new flatpack wind turbine requires no supporting mast and can be retrofitted to any roof, making it a useful and reliable energy source in urban areas. The turbine incorporates composite materials to overcome issues like size and noise that have long made wind turbines in urban areas a bane instead of a boon.

In the late 1980s Andrew McCamley, chief engineer of McCamley Ltd, met Tony Mewburn-Crook, when Mewburn-Crook was performing wind tunnel testing at a local university as part of his PhD on a unique wind turbine design. McCamley was fascinated by the quiet, reliable and efficient wind turbine and the two agreed to work together to make Mewburn-Crook’s concept a reality.

Finally, in late 2009 McCamley began development of his first design using his own money, a proof of concept machine known as the Mk1. This machine had its first “flight” in 2010 and flew for a year. A second machine then followed using a different structural philosophy than the Mk1. “The initial design utilized composites for the main (vertical) blades and the rotor (horizontal) blades,” says Mc- Camley. However, there were further improvements needed to make the design work the way the team had imagined. “After the Mk1 first flew, I sat down with a blank piece of paper and completely redesigned the structure of the machine,” he says. “I was determined to create something that was beautiful to look at, structurally stable and aerodynamically clean. Our first machine struggled in all three categories.” The result was the Mk2.

McCamley drew heavily from his aerospace design and structural load path knowledge to create the next generation flat-pack. The end result was a lightweight, stiff, multiple load path, curvaceous design. “I went back to some of Tony’s earlier work where the aerodynamic form was important and gave it performance advantages as well,” he explains.

Unlike horizontal-axis turbines, which rely on steady wind speed, the flat-pack model is able to cope with turbulent and variable wind speeds often found in urban environments. In fact, its self-starting technology means it doesn’t require power from the grid to restart if wind speed drops below a certain level. And the absence of down-force from sweeping blades significantly decreases noise and ground vibrations making it less likely to impact wildlife.