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05/09/13

Photos of Vergnet Wind Turbines by Paul Gipe

Vergnet is named for Marc Vergnet, the inventor of a hand water pump widely used in Africa. He took over the company that had previously been known as Aerowatt.

Aerowatt was developed by Jean-Marc Noël, one of France’s wind energy pioneers. The company went through several iterations before Marc Vergnet took control.

The Aerowatt design was noteworthy for its two blades upwind of the tower and for its use of pitch weights to pitch the blades to stall.

In 1991 I remember being interviewed by newspaper in Brest, France about the 100 kW experimental Aerowatt turbine installed on the Isle de Ouessant. The turbine and the experiment were a failure and I was quoted as giving France’s state utility, Electricite de France, a dunce’s cap for what I considered a “designed to fail” tactic to stall wind energy in France.

Similarly, several attempts to market Aerowatt and later derivatives in the US also ended in failure.

However, later attempts to develop what we would call today “microgrids” with multiple Aerowatt/Vergnet turbines were successful on Martinique, Guadeloupe, and other French overseas territories.

The typical Aerowatt design was upwind with pitch weights and a large tail vane.

Later, Vergnet introduced a new design featuring—again—two blades but this time downwind of the tower. And unlike the earlier turbines that use a conventional drive train layout, the new design used an integrated drive train. This version was introduced first as a 60 kW turbine and later as 200 kW model.

Numbers of these later turbines were installed on St. Pierre et Miquelon off the east coast of Canada and former French colonies in the Caribbean.

Vergnet’s principle design advantage is that all the turbines are installed on hinged tilt-down towers suitable for use in hurricane prone areas.


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