IMAGE: Leading Edge Power

Leading Edge: Powering the Winds of Change

January 6, 2021

‘Local power worldwide’ is Leading Edge’s slogan, and the company’s high-quality off-grid power solutions really are used all the way around the world—from the frozen reaches of Antarctica to the tropical climate of the British Virgin Islands. Their products include British-made small wind turbines, the leading stainless steel and aluminium wind turbines for marine applications, highly efficient solar panels, long-lasting deep cycle batteries and the Leading Edge PowerBoxes, which are all-in-one off-grid power solutions.


All at Sea: Leading Edge’s Marine Turbines


Leading Edge supply two ranges of wind turbine for boats and yachts: the horizontal axis LE-300 Marine and LE-450, and the vertical axis LE-v50 and LE-v150 wind generators, all are designed and precision manufactured in the UK. These can be used independently or alongside the company’s Solara marine solar panels.


The LE-300 Marine has been named the best value wind turbine for yachts and sailing boats by Practical Boat Owner magazine, with the lowest cost per watt. It has stainless steel counterweights to offset the effects of pitching and yawing on the water, and it’s designed to be used with a 'diversion load' controller, making it simple to integrate with a solar charging system. The LE-450 is the most powerful small wind turbine within the Leading Edge range. Its 1m rotor, able to provide meaningful power levels at everyday wind speeds of 5-8m/s (11-18mph). Both are ideal for ‘live-aboards’ and canal boats and are available in 12V, 24V and 48V versions. Lightweight, quiet and specifically designed for the corrosive marine environment, these turbines are robust and reliable, able to survive winds up to 27m/s (60mph). Their aerospace grade coatings and anodising protect their components from harsh conditions and saltwater.


Bea Freeman, who has lived full-time on an 11m Catamaran for over 23 years and used an LE-300 Marine since 2014, says: “I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this unit to fellow off-shore and in-shore cruisers for its excellent efficiency, low cost compared to other similar brands, durability and reliability.”


However, for those wanting to protect their batteries when their boat is not in use, Leading Edge recommends its vertical axis trickle chargers: the LE-v50 or its bigger brother the LE-v150. These vertical turbines are much quieter than conventional horizontal wind turbines. They are compact, fitting neatly onto a mast, and their components and coating are designed to make them virtually indestructible.


Both are lightweight turbines that can withstand wind speeds of up to 27m/s (60mph), and they’re available in 12V, 24V and 48V versions.




IMAGE: Leading Edge Power

Off-Grid Power on Land: Greener Solutions for Everyone


Leading Edge’s PowerBox and SolarBox systems are self-contained, plug-and-go off-grid power solutions generating the right amount of power in any remote location, and they’ve proved invaluable in a wide variety of situations. Easy to transport and fitting neatly into a single, pallet-sized box, the Leading Edge PowerBox is a complete solar-wind hybrid power supply designed for operating low power AC or DC equipment—and it can be deployed in less than an hour.



IMAGE: Leading Edge Power

Preventing Avalanches and Helping After Hurricanes


In Norway’s mountainous Oppland County, parts of the 53 county road run above the treeline and are affected by avalanches that often close it for days on end. The Norwegian Public Road Administration (NPRA) selected the Wyssen Avalanche Tower to provide controlled mini avalanches that can prevent snow build-up that can cause a major avalanche. The challenge? How to power it in such a remote location, with strong winds, sub-zero temperatures and almost no daylight during the winter.


This is where Leading Edge’s LE-v150 Extreme Wind Turbine came into play, providing what Benjamin Meier, Chief engineer at Wyssen Avalanche Control, calls a ‘fit and forget solution’ that was ideal for such a remote installation.


“The LE-v150 Extreme has run through two winters so far and provides vital power during the long winter months. Traditional horizontal turbines weren’t an option, they just wouldn’t survive the harsh conditions,” he explains.


The LE-v150 Extreme’s design is based around a cross-ventilated ‘savonious’ rotor design coupled to a 3-phase axial flux permanent magnet generator. The stainless steel blades are able to withstand the extreme forces of the wind (up to 35m/s (80mph)) even whilst the material is at its most brittle in temperatures below -40 °c.


During high winds, the savonious rotor system reaches a stall point where it’s no longer able to convert kinetic energy into rotational energy on the alternator shaft. The low rotational speed means that centrifugal forces upon the rotating components are minimised, increasing long-term reliability and durability of the turbine. On the other hand, when wind speeds are low, the cross-ventilated design ensures the wind turbine can still deliver power (cut in speeds are 5.5m/s).



IMAGE: Leading Edge Power

An LE-v150 Extreme is mounted at the top of each of the 14 Wyssen Avalanche Towers, connected to the Wyssen magazine box. This contains prepared explosive charges that are detonated remotely. During the first 2 winter seasons, nearly 200 mini avalanches have been released, significantly reducing the major avalanche risk at a cost far less than traditional avalanche protection measures such as building tunnels, dams, snow sheds or snow fences.


Off-grid solutions may not be able to help prevent hurricanes in the same way they can help prevent avalanches, but they can be of significant benefit in the aftermath. Residents of the British Virgin Islands know only too well how badly vital infrastructure can be damaged by a hurricane, and how essential reliable power is to disaster recovery; Hurricane Irma devastated the Islands in 2017.


To ensure there will be power for essential services when the next hurricane hits, in 2019, disaster relief charity Team Rubicon UK arranged for the installation of Leading Edge PowerBoxes. Power is generated by the Leading Edge LE-600 wind turbine mounted on one corner of the PowerBox and solar panels, designed for disaster response applications by GB Sol. Each PowerBox supplies 120V AC electricity for emergency shelters and medical facilities via an on-board 3000VA inverter/charger.


“The PowerBox is a phenomenal piece of technology that provides a robust, flexible and easy to maintain clean energy generating system. Its quick deployment can be facilitated through traditional means or via more non-conventional routes such as underslung helicopter loads which enable it to provide lifesaving capacity in the most challenging of situation and environments,” explains Nick Spicer, Renewable Energy consultant to Team Rubicon UK.


When a hurricane is forecast, the wind turbine can be stopped with the flick of a switch and then lowered after simply undoing two bolts at the bottom of the mast. The wind turbine is then stored in a safe place until the storm has passed, after which it can be raised again. The flexible solar panels are laid out and fixed to the ground. Together they produce 1.5 kW of power during daylight hours with the wind turbine continuing to contribute power during the night. The AC equipment that needs powering can be plugged directly into the PowerBox.




IMAGE: Leading Edge Power

Solutions for the Agricultural Industry


One of Leading Edge’s most recent projects is working in collaboration with RADIX Base Systems to provide bespoke off-grid communication masts for Smart Rural in the agricultural sector. Digital connectivity is now making it possible to build all sorts of value driving applications in rural settings. From monitoring soil conditions, temperature, water levels, moisture content and more; track all assets, livestock or personnel; manage everything more effectively and remotely using the data collected or bring new levels of automation with agricultural robotics.


The technology behind the system is harnessing the power of Long Range Wide Area Networks (LoRaWAN) that can be installed anywhere and set up for an infinite number of applications and tasks within a range of 10-20km. The various array of sensors transmits data over a mesh network of LoRaWAN gateways deployed on RADIX BASE STATIONS, developed in partnership with Leading Edge.


Powered by solar and wind, and installed on innovative RADIX ground screw foundations, BASE STATIONS can be located even in the most rural and hard-to-access areas, ensuring 100% coverage across entire networks. All sustainable and without damage to the environment and the complete solution can be installed and be up and running in just one day.


As the more efficient and environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional concrete bases, BASE STATIONS are deployed on ground screw foundations where possible. Ground screws open up hard-to-access areas and overcome sloping, uneven ground – the perfect match to off-grid solar and wind. No need for heavy excavation and unlike concrete ground screws can be installed any time of the year, in any weather and ready to build on immediately, ensuring there is minimal disruption to business operations.



IMAGE: Leading Edge Power

Leading Edge and RADIX have designed and manufactured bespoke vertically mounted solar modules, combining beautiful aesthetics with a practical function ensuring maximum power. The clever vertical solar design provides less opportunity for snow or dirt to cover the surfaces, optimising solar yield to give a consistent power charge during the day (weather dependent), in combination with the LE-300 wind turbine creating a hybrid solution which will deliver battery charging throughout the year.


A bespoke control board and cabinet containing all the control equipment and battery storage has been specifically designed and assembled for the harshest of climates ranging from 60°C to -20°C by Leading Edge.


The LE-300’s excellent power production stems from an exceptionally low start-up wind speed and superb high wind speed output. The LE-300 wind turbine has a heritage that is based around reliability and durability and is precision engineered with only two moving parts so little maintenance is required during the turbine’s operating life. For harsher climates, the LE-v150 Extreme vertical axis wind turbine will be installed due to the turbines reliability and ability to survive wind gusts of 35m/s (80mph) or if the temperatures drops down to -40°C.




IMAGE: Leading Edge Power

Solutions for Broadband and Radio Communications


Providing broadband to rural areas across the world presents a problem: how do you supply power for the fixed wireless equipment such as relay sites and repeater stations in remote locations? Leading Edge has the answer. It designs bespoke off-grid power systems using its highly durable and reliable British-built wind turbines and ultra-high efficiency monocrystalline solar panels.


If installation needs to be on hills or mountains, Leading Edge’s LE-v50 Extreme and LE-v150 Extreme turbines are ideal, as these vertical wind turbines are designed for winds of up to 35m/s (80mph) and temperatures down to -40◦C. Where power loads are between 30-60W, and in less harsh environments the more traditional LE-300 and LE-600 horizontal wind turbines are used to deliver the power required. Customers have included Shetland Broadband, Speednet Scotland and Badenoch Broadband in the UK, and Primo Wireless in New Zealand and Valley Internet in the USA.



IMAGE: Leading Edge Power

The LE-v50 Extreme can also power radio communications in remote locations, such as the highest peak in the extensive Cuillin mountain range on Scotland’s Isle of Skye, where winds can reach 136mph. Here, a radio repeater is vital to ensure messages reach hidden valleys that are communication black-out zones, allowing the Skye Mountain Rescue Team (SMRT) to get help quickly to the right area.


“Rescuers are dealing with life and death situations, so getting a message to the base station at Sligachan or Glen Brittle, pinpointing where the casualty is and what sort of medical assistance is needed, is critical. Without a fully operational radio repeater powered by the LE-v50 Extreme, none of this would be possible,” says rescue team member Chris French. The Skye team invested in the LE-v50 Extreme after it was recommended by another Scottish rescue team, Glencoe Mountain Rescue.


The VHF radio repeater draws 25W when it’s transmitting and has a range of 15 miles, but most of the time it uses just 30mA (0.4W); a low power load that doesn’t drain the batteries and allows the wind turbine to keep the batteries topped up, inputting power into a 110Ah deep-cycle AGM battery.


“During the summer, rescue teams are out on the mountains two or three times each week,” commented Chris. “Many people not only have our brave rescuers to thank but also the technology that makes their rescue possible.”

IMAGE: Leading Edge Power

Powering Remote Research


UNAVCO, a non-profit university-governed consortium, facilitates geoscience research and education using geodesy. The consortium operates a GPS survey system at McMurdo Station in Antarctica—a remote and hostile location. Here, extensive scientific monitoring equipment records geophysical and meteorological data thanks to power supplied by solar panels and an LE-v50 Extreme wind turbine.


‘Polar’ versions of the LE-v50 wind turbine are black so that they absorb the maximum amount of the limited solar radiation, helping to reduce the build-up of rime ice on the turbine blades and body—a definite plus in Antarctica!



IMAGE: Leading Edge Power

The Best of British, Famous Worldwide


Leading Edge has grown from its humble beginnings as designer and producer of just one wind turbine—the LE300—to a world-famous producer of innovative off-grid solutions. From its British base in Herefordshire, it now supplies innovative green power systems that are installed around the world, powering everything from rockfall monitoring systems in the Alps to buoys in the Black Sea, and providing the necessary energy for day-to-day living in all kinds of homes: a cabin in Norway, a riverside house in South Africa, and various boats, barges and canal boats!


With customers in 59 countries, an array of green tech solutions under their belt and the ability to revolutionise the way communities, businesses, organisations and individuals obtain their power, Leading Edge is now a company that’s genuinely where its name declares it to be—on the leading edge of off-grid power technology and supply.



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