Vertical-axis wind turbines (or VAWTs) have the main rotor shaft arranged vertically. Key advantages of this arrangement are that the turbine does not need to be pointed into the wind to be effective. This is an advantage on sites where the wind direction is highly variable, for example when integrated into buildings. The key disadvantages include the low rotational speed with the consequential higher torque and hence higher cost of the drive train, the inherently lower power coefficient, the 360 degree rotation of the aerofoil within the wind flow during each cycle and hence the highly dynamic loading on the blade, the pulsating torque generated by some rotor designs on the drive train, and the difficulty of modelling the wind flow accurately and hence the challenges of analysing and designing the rotor prior to fabricating a prototype.
With a vertical axis, the generator and gearbox can be placed near the ground, using a direct drive from the rotor assembly to the ground-based gearbox, hence improving accessibility for maintenance.
When a turbine is mounted on a rooftop, the building generally redirects wind over the roof and this can double the wind speed at the turbine. If the height of the rooftop mounted turbine tower is approximately 50% of the building height, this is near the optimum for maximum wind energy and minimum wind turbulence. It should be borne in mind that wind speeds within the built environment are generally much lower than at exposed rural sites.
Another type of vertical axis is the Parallel turbine similar to the crossflow fan or centrifugal fan it uses the ground effect. Vertical axis turbines of this type have been tried for many years: a large unit producing up to 10 kW was built by Israeli wind pioneer Bruce Brill in 1980s: the device is mentioned in Dr. Moshe Dan Hirsch's 1990 report, which decided the Israeli energy department investments and support in the next 20 years. The Magenn WindKite blimp uses this configuration as well, chosen because of the ease of running.