Tower mounted wind and solar systems and Smart Tracking technology

How Windular’s innovative system is revolutionising renewable power generation on cell sites

Read this article to learn:

  • How Windular’s system can be mounted on towers, the space required and the benefits this brings
  • How the system impacts the wind load of towers
  • Why Windular’s Smart Tracking technology is unlike anything else in the market
  • How Windular ensure ease of installation and maintenance
  • How proven the technology is in the field
  • How the system and business model can be tailored to optimise the TCO of Windular’s offering and how this compares to other sources of generation

Windular’s solar and wind systems can be installed directly on telecom towers themselves, optimising the use of space and sites and mitigating theft. Their Smart Tracking technology allows the systems to be positioned optimally whilst also switching them into safe mode during adverse weather conditions. TowerXchange speak to Windular’s Vice President and Co-Founder Jerry Foster to find out more about the company’s highly innovative product. 

TowerXchange: Please can you introduce Windular to TowerXchange readers.

Jerry Foster, Vice President & Co-Founder, Windular Research and Technologies Inc:

Windular Research and Technologies Inc. is a Canadian company established in 2013 where it designed, developed and commercialised a highly innovative wind and solar system to specifically address the telecommunications tower marketplace where there is a mandate to lower operating costs from traditional diesel power systems in remote and rural off grid and semi grid locations. 

Windular’s design and background comes directly from the telecommunication tower engineering and power systems industry. Windular’s “Smart Tracking” technology incorporated in its wind and solar systems can operate independently of each other or in tandem. Our universal rail and carriage platform can be affixed to all tower designs based on a predetermined engineering analysis. The “Smart Tracking” technology provides data which allows the system to automatically read and position itself for the optimum location to generate renewable power while providing seamless and uninterrupted power as the system circumnavigates the tower. The “Smart Tracking” system also automatically repositons the system in a safe/ sleep mode on the tower when turbulent winds in remote area occur therefore ensuring the system is not at risk. This allows the system to protect itself and once the turbulent weather system passes it will reposition itself back to the optimum location. This is a key attribute and benefit to Windular’s technology as traditional wind turbines in remote installations typically fail when a turbulent weather system passes through and ultimately damaging the turbine. Winduar technology has been tested and proven in a variety of weather conditions from extreme heat to extreme cold. The opportunity to reduce the reliance on off grid diesel power systems while using the existing tower infrastructure  provides a secure and long term renewable energy platform. 

As wind, solar and diesel power all create their power differently, Windular works with it’s customers to fully analyse and provide the proper renewable energy recipe to ensure the objectives of adopting renewable energy is acceptable in both the short term as well as the long term strategy of the MNOs or towercos.

TowerXchange: One of the most common constraints cited when it comes to the use of solar on cell site is the amount of available space, can you talk us through Windular’s system which is installed on the vertical towers themselves, what kind of space is required for this?

Jerry Foster, Vice President & Co-Founder, Windular Research and Technologies Inc:

One of the key advantages of Windular’s technology is the use of the tower assets to house either the wind or solar technology. Typically many remote tower installations are not as populated with various antennas and usually have space somewhere on the mid section of the tower or lower allowing Windular to affix the rail and carriage platform. The solar technology allows the panels to rotate around the tower becoming more efficient while at the same time not be inhibited by limited ground space or terrain within a fixed area. Also the solar panels are much more secure from theft as they are on the tower where access is complicated. In fact, where solar is the dominate power resource, there is the ability to stack two or more solar systems to increase the power opportunity. 

Windular provides a power assessment based on the data the customer provides as each tower opportunity can have variable factors to the success of adopting Windular’s wind and/or solar system. Typically each system requires approximately five meters of space, so for example on a typical 45 metre self supporting tower, the wind system can be positioned at 20 meters and the solar at 5 meters from the ground. Windular’s analysis beyond the solar irradiance is analysing the local or regional wind maps, the tower positioning with respect to altitudes and/ or. near large bodies of water or flat plains. All these physical variables provide what a successful recipe would encompass for a specific tower application of the Windular system. Currently, Windular’s solar system is being analysed for more urban settings where grid power is not always reliable yet there is no ground space to add solar, therefore allowing Windular’s solar system to be added towards the lower end of the tower where there is available space.

TowerXchange: How does this impact the wind load of towers? What additional strengthening or site modification is required?

Jerry Foster, Vice President & Co-Founder, Windular Research and Technologies Inc:

Windular’s engineering team provides a tower structural analysis before adding the Windular system. The typical loading effect of adding the Windular’s system is minimal as the turbine works with the wind and is not a physical deterrent to the structural loading of the tower. To date, Windular has been 100%  successful in the approval of the system being implemented on existing towers whether they are self supporting, guyed or monopole. New tower implementations can be designed from the outset to accommodate the Windular system. If through the structural analysis of a tower there areindications that tower reinforcement is required, this reinforcement can be implemented very cost effectively. 

TowerXchange: To what extent do the energy systems take space that could have been leased to further tenants? Is there any risk of interference with antenna that are placed on towers already?

Jerry Foster, Vice President & Co-Founder, Windular Research and Technologies Inc:

In rural and remote areas, the towers typically have ample space to accommodate Windular’s technology while leaving adequate space for additional tower antennas. The towerco business model is one where the remote towers are the most costly to operate, therefore reducing the power costs through implementing Windular’s technology is beneficial to the financial model where unused real estate on the tower is available. There is zero interference between Windular’s wind system and telecommunication equipment as they operate on completely opposite end of the frequency spectrum.

TowerXchange: Tell us more about Windular’s Smart Tracking technology and how this can impact on the amount of power generated by systems?

Jerry Foster, Vice President & Co-Founder, Windular Research and Technologies Inc:

Windular’s “Smart Tracking” provides two key benefits. Firstly the system automatically and constantly generates data to self position the wind system in the most effective place on the tower to generate power. Secondly, and as important, the wind system also is able to protect itself by controlling the RPM’s through Windular’s power electronics system and automatically rotating the system out of the wind when high turbulent winds become detrimental to the system. This technology is Windular’s intellectual property and key differentiating factor and benefit from any other technology on the market. Windular’s solar tracking system optimizes the solar output of the selected panels while also avoiding any negative shadowing effects from the tower itself. Both of Windular’s tracking technologies for wind and solar make Windular’s system the most efficient system available for an industry sector where there is a massive off grid market that in the past has been reliant on costly inefficient diesel power systems and costly fuel delivery logistics. 

TowerXchange: Ease of installation and maintenance are of the utmost importance, especially for sites in remote areas with a more limited skills base to rely upon. How have Windular’s systems been designed with this in mind?

Jerry Foster, Vice President & Co-Founder, Windular Research and Technologies Inc:

Windular’s system has been designed by telecom tower engineers, who understand the challenges of onsite scopes of work. Windular’s design for implementation been developed in consultation with tower fabricators and erectors. Windular’s operations team work closely with the MNO’s selected service providers to train them on the techniques for implementation in remote settings where there is a variety of ways in which the system can be affixed to the existing tower and commissioned. Service can also be provided by these same tower service teams whereby remote monitoring can provide data in advance of a service call. The Windular system requires a bi-annual site check that can be carried out whilst service teams are visiting the sites for various other scopes of work. The service team can place the system in the safe mode whilst onsite work is performed.  Windular’s engineering design team has designed the system to be easily maintained with minimal parts that would require maintenance.

TowerXchange: How proven are your systems in the field? Which clients have you worked with?

Jerry Foster, Vice President & Co-Founder, Windular Research and Technologies Inc:

Windular’s system, like any good technology, has evolved where constant improvements are adopted. Windular has had systems operational since 2013 and have had commercialised systems operating since 2015. The strategic growth into the global marketplace has provided Windular the ability to implement with some world class clients such as Bell Canada and Telenor. In 2019, Windular is anticipating the addition of new clients in other markets such as the ASEAN region but also plans to establish the technology in Africa. All types of technologies have parameters or constraints where the system may not be optimal based on various factors, but similar to the telecom industry Windular continues to improve the technology and insure long term successful client relationships are established. Where there is a program to implement new towers in remote regions of the globe coupled with the existing off grid towers, Windular’s technology provides massive opportunity to provide financial benefits to its existing clients as well as new customers.

TowerXchange: How does the TCO compare to other renewable (and non-renewable) energy generation systems?

Jerry Foster, Vice President & Co-Founder, Windular Research and Technologies Inc:

When you are seeking to adopt a renewable energy strategy to lower operating costs versus the increasing operational costs of a diesel power system, the key is to ensure the renewal energy resources are adequately available versus the power load required to provide the best long term solution with a fixed power cost. The opportunity to use either wind or solar is not how much energy it can produce as that can vary from region to region, or location to location, but ensuring the renewable energy system can be implemented effectively to ensure longevity of the system. The Windular system can be acquired and implemented  through either a CAPEX initiative or a customised OPEX program. Each client has variable objectives to adopt renewable energy, with various ROI criteria and financial strategies. Typically, Windular would seek to understand the overall program objective and financial models acceptable to the client to ensure a proper recipe is put forth not only to create the power but to also store and integrate the power with the existing on-site generator and batteries. In most instances the Windular system, either wind or solar or both, can be very competitive versus other traditional wind or solar systems and all the infrastructure required to implement these traditional systems. Also, the Windular system can be extremely competitive versus a traditional diesel generator configuration. The generator can become the backup power system which in turn allows the generator to have an increased longevity itself coupled with reduced maintenance logistics costs. The biggest issue in the remote areas where traditional wind systems are placed is the damage that occurs to them therefore causing the client to feel wind does not work. The Windular system not only provides adequate power, but also overcomes the remote factor where it autonomously protects itself in situations where turbulent weather patterns can occur.

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