Sudbury energy firm given £45k funding

The aerogenerator vertical axis wind turbine. The creation of Theo Bird's Sudbury-based company. ANL-140912-132323001
The aerogenerator vertical axis wind turbine. The creation of Theo Bird's Sudbury-based company. ANL-140912-132323001

A Sudbury-based company has been given a £45,000 grant to develop “smarter” blades for wind turbines that could save billions of pounds.

The Aerogenerator Project, a renewable energy company owned by Sudbury businessman Theo Bird, was given the money to create a “nervous system” to monitor wind turbine blades.

Mr Bird believes his Smart Structural Health Intelligence System (Ships) will allow for easy detection when any of the blades are damaged.

In turn, this will mean predictive rather than reactive maintenance, increasing reliability and efficiency while reducing costs.

Mr Bird, who runs the company from his home in Bulmer Road, said the scheme could increase the profits of a wind farm by up to £1billion over its lifetime.

And being situated in rural Suffolk may seem strange for a company whose design could have a global impact on renewable energy, but Mr Bird described it as ideal.

The former Sudbury Upper School student said: “Sudbury is the perfect town for a businesses like mine and the growth prospects are exciting.

“Quality of life is very important, while our overheads are reasonably low.”

The Ships scheme, which was given funding by the Supply Chain Innovation for Offshore Renewable Energy programme, is part of the company’s long-term ambition – to design a vertical axis off-shore wind turbine for use in the United Kingdom.

Since 2007, the Aerogenerator Project has raised more than £5million in research and development funding.

It hopes to complete a prototype – with the wingspan of a Boeing 737 – in 2015.

Due to the design, this form of turbine could allow for larger structures generating more power.

Mr Bird said this would mean energy being produced at half the cost of traditional off-shore turbines.

If successful, the 43-year-old believes the company will grow and offer more employment opportunities in the Sudbury area.

He said: “In the future, we will work with people all over the world, but I am very into local manufacturing because it’s more sustainable.”