savonius wind turbine

How Loud and Efficient Are Savonius Turbines?

Steve Russell - June 6, 2023

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Wind turbines are some of the most beloved structures in the eco-revolution. Their towering presence literally represents the vigor of humans’ efforts toward a more sustainable future. However, all renewable energy generation technologies have a sneaky underlayer of inefficiencies and machine improvements. 

Not even solar panels are perfect, so what can wind turbines do to be an even greater poster child for environmental care? These questions led to the creation of alternative wind turbine models, including the Savonius turbine.

What Are Savonius Turbines, and How Do They Differ?

In 1926, around 40 years after what’s claimed to be the first automatic wind turbine, Finnish engineer Sigurd Johannes Savonius reimagined the blueprint. It’s known for its simplistic schematic. Fan turbines have blades that turn on one axis, whereas the curved edges of the Savonius turbine revolve around the vertical structure.

The best way to understand the core differences is by defining vertical and horizontal axis wind turbines. Commonplace turbines with fan-like blades are horizontal axis (HAWTs) that run parallel with the ground, and Savonius turbines are the opposite (VAWTs). 

Not all HAWTs or VAWTs are the same, but the descriptors merely encompass how they rotate. It’s the difference between today’s typical turbines that inform curious minds of the rest of the distinguishing factors regarding how it operates and generates power.

Propeller-style HAWTs have notable disparities because of their construction differences, but what about between other VAWTs like new bladeless turbines or the Darrieus VAWT? Darrieus is similar to HAWTs in that they generate power with lift but optimize more on aerodynamics. Modern bladeless turbines, affectionately called “skybrators,” oscillate to generate power. The top section of the column vibrates, maximizing a phenomenon called vortex shedding to obtain even more efficiency than most HAWTs.

What Are the Turbine’s Specs?

The curved blades, known as scoops, are the most integral feature of the Savonius turbine. The scoop design prevents it from capitalizing on the wind’s lift to generate electricity, so it focuses on drag instead. These mechanisms impact the turbine’s efficiency and the amount of maintenance it needs. Most people purchase Savonius turbines for their ease of upkeep and upfront cost.

Regarding efficiency, there are contrasting views, depending on where the turbine resides. 

Studies reveal VAWTs can potentially increase offshore turbines’ power output by 15% at least. Wear and tear is one of the most prominent reasons this is because wind farms with HAWTs have potentially thousands of acres of domineering turbines. All the power in between the turbines, including what pushes from front to back, can deteriorate specific locations of the farm faster than others. Savonius VAWTs don’t have this issue because it isn’t moving wind similarly.

These features give the Savonius one of its main perks — minimal sound pollution. The low-noise design helps with wind power’s most significant complaint.

How Do Savonius Turbines Compare to HAWTs?

The machinery and results differ in a HAWT compared to a Savonius turbine — the pros and cons are a mix.

Building HAWTs takes intense resources and heavy machinery. Plus, they require rigorous safety standards because of the height. Lifting blades and replacement parts to those reaches would unsettle most, but it combines with a labor-intensive procedure. VAWTs aren’t as tall, making installation more seamless and malleable. But, the intensity of HAWT construction pays off because they generate more power on average than shorter VAWTs — only if the wind direction stays the same.

They could fit in countless more places that aren’t barren fields purchased to host a wind farm. They won’t capture the up-high winds HAWTs bank on. Still, the wind that weaves through city skyscrapers or the turbulent gusts from unexpected ocean activity could make a Savonius turbine a powerful asset. Residential applications and intercity Savonius turbines could amplify a city’s green commitments. Their ability to capture wind from every angle make it a worthwhile investment despite working best with strong yet inconsistent winds.

Additionally, urban planners and homesteaders could benefit from VAWT height to add more renewable energy to their land. Building permits and district ordinances have strict regulations, especially regarding height allowances — Savonius turbines and other VAWTs might be the solution for normalizing shorter windpower.

Savonius Turbines Are Versatile and Effective

Though HAWTs have overtaken the mainstream, VAWTs like the Savonius turbine could have more market acceptance. Their versatility in urban areas or regions with inconsistent wind could provide a less expensive alternative to other forms of renewable energy. Innovations like the Savonius turbine influenced subsequent VAWT designs to change the windpower conversation for the rest of history — will VAWTs eventually get the same recognition as the quintessential wind turbine? It’s hard to say for sure.

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About the author

Steve Russell

Steve is the Managing Editor of and regularly contributes articles related to wildlife, biodiversity, and recycling. His passions include wildlife photography and bird watching.