This turbine from Saphon Energy looks more like a flat satellite dish. The Saphonian is based on a boat sail. As the wind pushes on it, the dish oscillates a little bit back and forth. That motion drives small pistons connected to a hydraulic system. The kinetic energy captured can be stored or converted directly into electricity with a generator. Because there isn't a transmission, or a gearbox, the device is completely silent. And the lack of blades means fewer bird and bat deaths -- perhaps none. Each dish harvests about 80 percent of the available wind energy, which is 2.3 times more efficient than a traditional bladed turbine.
A World War II veteran built a prototype for a quiet, bladeless wind turbine shaped like a drum designed to protect birds and bats from getting killed in it. This patented technology is called the Catching Wind Power Compressed Air Enclosed Wind Turbine, or just "awesome" for short.
Raymond Green is an 89-year-old retired engineer and welder living in Jackson, Calif., who served in World War II. Green knew that traditional wind turbines have killed birds and bats (although a number of factors that include speed can play a factor). And he was aware of opposition to wind turbines because of the noise they make. Hoping to make a safer and more viable turbine, Green began prototyping.
His Catching Wind Power turbine resembles a large drum. Weighing 45 pounds, the $550 prototype mounts the 12-inch-diameter turbine behind a 31-inch windsock and inner compression cone, internalizing a ring of blades so that they're inaccessible to birds, according to Green's site. While technically there are blades, none of them are exposed. In addition, the lighter weight could lower transport and installation costs.
The idea is that the turbine could be produced in different sizes, according to Treehugger's Derek Markham. They could range from ones for simple portable electronics recharging to massive units for wind farms. Green already patented the inner compression cone technology, and has tested it successfully on the road by attaching it to his truck.
Green actively sought a veteran-run company to help him optimize and refine the turbine. Recently he hired the New Jersey-based manufacturer Sigma Design Company, whose owner Jerry Lynch is a U.S. Navy veteran. Together they plan to bring the wind turbine to the market.
"Every bungalow on the Jersey Shore could have a personal one on their roof, if we could make it attractive enough," Lynch told the Daily Record's Mark Spivey. Admittedly, I think mounting them as-is on towers would look ugly, but paint them bright colors and even the Jersey Shore crowd might snap them up.
Wind turbines tend to look like windmills or giant propellers, and the design does in fact borrow from that. But that isn't the only design that's ever been tried.
At Sandia National Laboratories wind energy experts are looking at vertical axis wind turbines, (called VAWTs). VAWTs have a couple of advantages over traditional horizontal-axis designs, one of which is that the drive train mechanism is close to the ground and thus easier to maintain. They also aren't as complicated and have a lower center of gravity. If a VAWT system could be made to work, then it might make wind power cheaper.
VAWTs are also simpler in one respect: they need not face the wind, since the wind will turn them from any direction. That means there are fewer moving parts and less maintenance -- an important consideration when building an offshore wind farm.
So why aren't they used more often? VAWT designs generate different loads on their drive trains. That is, a traditional wind turbine has blades that face the wind at a certain angle. The angle of those blades can be changed to account for different wind speeds, which keeps them moving at a relatively constant rate, reducing the wear and tear on the drive mechanism.
A VAWT 's blades catch the wind and as they turn, come back around and have to face the wind again. That means that there's a bumpiness to the torque they produce – the turbine moves fast, then slows down, then speeds up again, over and over. (In a similar way, it's a lot more taxing on your car's engine to stop, start, and rev the engine than it is to drive smoothly).
Another big challenge is designing a VAWT blade that is very large. A horizontal axis turbine has to be on the order of 100 yards across to generate megawatt-scale power. VAWTs have to be even bigger, on the order of 300 yards long. But building a gracefully curved, light blade that big -- and guaranteeing its strength -- is sometimes hard to do.
But the last VAWTs were built in the 1980s, and since then a lot of expertise has been developed in the design and manufacture of turbine blades, to say nothing of the advances in materials since then. So the Sandia team thinks there's a lot to be mined there. Over the next two years Sandia researchers will be looking at how to improve on the old designs, and see which ones are most promising.
Sandia Labs isn't the only group looking at VAWT designs. The California Institute of Technology has also been researching them. A Swedish company called Ehmberg Solutions developed the SeaTwirl, which is specifically designed for use offshore and incorporates seawater into the workings of the turbine.
Credits: Sandia National Laboratories / Randy Montoya
When you think of wind power, you may think of wind turbines, which harness fast-moving air. But this wind tower generates its own wind and then harnesses it. Creating wind eliminates the sporadic and unreliable nature of this renewable energy. Two structures, designed by tk-based Clean Wind Energy Tower, Inc., have gotten zoning approval for development in Arizona.
The Downdraft Towers are each 2,000-foot tall hollow cylinders covered with vanes. Inside the cylinder, water is pumped to the top and sprayed into a mist. That cools the air, which then sinks rapidly to the bottom at speeds of 50 miles per hour. At the same time, the vanes on the outside pull in additional (presumably intermittent) wind. The downward rushing wind exits at the bottom, passing through turbines that produce electricity.
Ron Pickett, CEO, told Discovery News that the tower will be designed for a peak output of 1,100 megawatt-hours and will average about 675 MWh, about 535 of which will be sold to the grid and the rest of which will power the pumps and internal systems. It should be enough, Pickett said, for about 800,000 homes.
It will be located near the town of San Luis, which is near the border of California and Mexico in the southwestern corner of the state. The water will come from the Sea of Cortez and be desalinated before use to reduce corrosion. Pickett said about 90 percent of the water used can be recovered and the cost of the desalinization and piping is part of the estimated $2 billion price tag for the project.
There are still hurdles. Earlier this year the Greater Yuma Economic Development Corporation and Marine Corps Naval Station in Yuma both expressed concerns about the impacts. The first group asked about the water use, and the latter about power lines near an active airstrip. But neither was strongly opposed to the project.
Pickett said he is confident that the company can raise the necessary funds to build the towers. International Energy Agency reports estimate a coal plant costs some $1 million to $1.5 million per megawatt-hour, which would put the cost of an equivalent plant at $1.5 billion. A nuclear power station would be much more, so the costs aren't wildly different from other power generation technologies.
All that said, if the building goes forward, it could make the conventional wind turbine tower a thing of the past.
If it were possible to hitchhike to Great Britain, I think I might stick out my thumb -- if anything, just to bear witness to a new public sculpture that has been dropping jaws in jolly olde London towne.
Artist Luke Jerram has dubbed his creation Aeolus, and it looks as good as it sounds. It's an arch made out of 310 polished steel tubes that funnel light and wind to create a multisensory experience for those who stand within the sculpture's hollow core.
Perhaps an unintentional nod to the city's rich tradition of punk rock, from a distance, the sculpture looks like a giant metallic Mohawk spiking out of the grass.
Actually it's a massive Aeolian harp, thus the name. An Aeloian harp is a musical instrument "played" by the breeze and named after the ancient Greek god of wind, Aeolus.
Jerram's version boasts strings between the giant tubes that vibrate. Skins on top of the tubes channel vibrations down the shaft, which gives visitors an ethereal-sounding experience while standing underneath the arch.
"Aeolus is a giant stringed musical instrument, an acoustic and optical pavilion designed to make audible the silent shifting patterns of the wind and to visually amplify the ever changing sky," Jerram explains on his website.
The tiny European island nation of Malta, which sits off the coast of the Italian island Sicily, has to meet the mandate from the European Union to get 10 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.To achieve that goal, the island is considering a proposal by the Swedish company Hexicon, to build a large floating wind farm. The farm would have 36 turbines situated on a floating platform that would be anchored to the seafloor by cables.
June 15 is Global Wind Day and to honor that event, the European Wind Energy Association together with the Global Wind Energy Council is organizing a photo contest. The winner will get a voucher to shop on Amazon worth €1,000 or about U.S. $1,292. It will become part of an online photography collection called Hard Rain Project, and be published in the renewable energy newspaper 'Recharge' as well as in the European wind energy industry magazine Wind Directions.
Five runners up will win €250 or about U.S. $322. All of the winning images will be announced on June 15, 2012, and displayed in various places around Brussels.
"Wind power is an essential source of clean energy in over 80 countries today," Lauha Fried, Communications Director at GWEC said in a press release. "We'd like to see photos taken from all around the world and encourage everyone to participate by sending us your best shots. A new feature for this year's edition is the continental subcategory where a winner will be chosen for each continent."
The competition is open until May 6, 2012. To submit photos, visit Global Wind Day. Good luck!
Why tap a trickle, if you could tap a torrent? That's the idea behind Italian company KiteGen's new system for harvesting strong-blowing, high-altitude winds. Their system would fly tethered kites 2,624 feet into the air where they would harness winds that are, on average, six miles per hour faster than wind harnessed by stationary turbines on the ground. The kites would attach to mechanical arms and be flown over a predetermined flight path to maximize torque while taking advantage of stronger wind.
According to KiteGen's calculations, the technology could help lower energy costs to between $0.02 and $0.05 per kilowatt hour (kWh), compared to $0.05 and $0.09 per kWh for fossil fuel and $0.15 per kWh for current wind turbines.
On top of potentially being more efficient than wind turbines, the system would take up less space than convential wind farms. A 1,000 megawatt (MW) wind farm can cover up to 186 square miles, while KiteGen's says their system would take up as little as 3.5 square miles for the same output.
BLOG: Wind Turbine Explodes Into Flames
While KiteGen's system is still in the development stage, the company is attempting to fund the first full-sized model with plans for an off-shore system also in the works.
Nothing is more emblematic of clean, renewable energy than the soothing blades of a wind turbine placidly turning in the breeze. Whenever I encounter a wind farm, I'm instantly calmed, dare I say hypnotized, by the tranquility.
So when one of these gentle green giants catches fire, like it did in the above photo, the image is jarring to say the least. Most jarring is that this seems to happen more than you might think.
Most recently this happened in Androssan, North Ayrshire, Scotland, an area recently hammered by winds up to 160 mph, compliments of a beastly Atlantic storm that clobbered northern parts of the U.K. early this week.
As you can see from this photo, the turbine exploded, spewing large pieces of flaming material on the ground below.
The windfarm's operator, Infinis of Edinburgh, said the cause of the fire is not yet known and that the incident is under investigation.
It's not entirely clear what went wrong (normally wind turbines shut down when winds reach 55 mile per hour), so the investigation will likely focus on that mechanism and possibly the gearbox, which controls rotor speed.
"As a standard precautionary measure, all Infinis staff vacate wind farms when wind speeds exceed 55 mph and therefore no one was present on site at the time of the incident," Infinis explained in a press release.
As well, the site has been disconnected from the electricity grid until further notice.
When it comes to harvesting wind energy more efficiently, you don't need to reinvent the wheel -- you just need to stick it in the ocean.
Swedish company Ehrnberg Solutions AB has developed the SeaTwirl, a new take on wind turbine technology. The system's unique design allows wind energy to be stored kinetically until it is needed, unlike many traditional turbines which require energy to be immediately fed into the grid. SeaTwirl's flywheel design also allows the system to generate energy even after the wind has died down.
Sticking out of the water like a carousel or merry-go-round is the top of the SeaTwirl's system. It's a vertical wind turbine with curved tines connected to a hollow torus ring.
Running through the center of the top carriage is the system's axel, which plunges below the surface of the water and threads through a cylindrical float assembly before connecting to the generator. The entire system is anchored to the sea floor and held in place with lines attached to the generator. Electricity is delivered ashore via seabed cables.
Yet the most innovative element to the SeaTwirl may be how the system incorporates water. When the wind is strong, the turbine's rapid spinning motion siphons water from the float assembly into the hollow torus ring. The water's added weight to the ring frame adds to the centrifugal force, which extends the turbine's spinning capacity, allowing the SeaTwirl to keep spinning after the wind has calmed.
The SeaTwirl's designers tested a prototype off the coast of Sweden last month and said it performed well. They believe their 1,411-foot, full-scale version could generate 39,000 megawatt-hours per year and store up to 25,000 kilowatt-hours. This would be enough to support 8,000 homes for one hour.
"Sea Twirl is a very exciting technological innovation with great potential. A feature that makes it especially interesting is its expected energy storage capacity which makes it possible to produce electricity even when the wind has slowed down, which has long been a challenge for wind turbines," said Dr. Peter Klason in an Ehrnberg Solutions AP press release. Klason is a physics professor and researcher at the SP Technical Research Institute in Sweden.