Giant wind farms lining hills and shores aren’t the only way to harness the power of the wind, say green energy pioneers who plan to reinvent wind power by forgoing the need for turbine towers, blades and even wind.
“We are not against traditional wind farms,” says David Yáñez, inventor of Vortex Bladeless. His six-person startup, based on the outskirts of Madrid, has pioneered the design of a turbine that can harness energy from the winds without the white blades that are considered synonymous with wind power.
The design recently won approval from Norway’s state energy company Equinor, which named Vortex to a list of the 10 most exciting startups in the energy sector. Equinor will also offer support for startup development through its technology acceleration program.
Bladeless turbines are 3 meters high, a cylinder with a curved top fixed vertically with an elastic rod. To the untrained eye, it appears to move from side to side, not unlike a toy on a car dashboard. It is actually designed to oscillate within the range of the wind and generate electricity from vibration.
It has already garnered attention on the Reddit forum site, where the turbine was compared to a giant vibrating sex toy, or “skybrator.” The unmistakable phallic design attracted more than 94,000 ratings and 3,500 comments on the site. The highest rated comment suggested that a similar device could be found in your mother’s dresser drawer. It received 20,000 positive reviews from Reddit users.
“Our technology has different characteristics that can help fill the gaps where traditional wind farms might not be appropriate,” says Yáñez.
These gaps could include urban and residential areas where the impact of a wind farm would be too great and the space to build one would be too small. It connects with the same trend of installing small-scale on-site power generation, which has helped homes and businesses across the country save on their energy bills.
This could be wind power’s answer to the home solar panel, Yáñez says.
“They complement each other well, because solar panels produce electricity during the day, while wind speeds tend to be higher at night,” he says. “But the main benefit of the technology is the reduction of its environmental impact, its visual impact and the cost of operation and maintenance of the turbine.”
The turbine does not pose any danger to the migration patterns of birds or wildlife, especially when used in urban environments. For people who live or work nearby, the turbine would create noise at a frequency virtually undetectable to humans.
“Today, the turbine is small and would generate small amounts of electricity. But we are looking for an industrial partner to expand our plans to a 140 meter turbine with a power capacity of 1 megawatt ”, says Yáñez.
Vortex isn’t the only startup hoping to reinvent wind power. Alpha 311, which began in a garden shed in Whitstable, Kent, has begun manufacturing a small vertical wind turbine that it claims can generate electricity without wind.
The 2-meter turbine, made from recycled plastic, is designed to fit into existing streetlights and generate electricity as passing cars displace air. An independent investigation commissioned by the company has found that each turbine installed along a highway could generate as much electricity as 20 square meters of solar panels – more than enough electricity to keep the street light on and also help power the grid. local electric.
A scaled-down version of the turbine, less than 1 meter, will be installed at London’s O2 Arena, where it will help generate clean electricity for the 9 million people who visit the entertainment venue in a typical year.
“While our turbines can be placed anywhere, the optimal location is next to a road, where they can be installed on existing infrastructure. There is no need to dig anything up as they can be connected to the lighting columns that are already there and use the existing wiring to feed directly into the grid, ”says Mike Shaw, a company spokesman. “The footprint is small and the highways are not exactly beautiful places.”
Perhaps the most ambitious divergence from the standard wind turbine has emerged from German startup SkySails, which hopes to use an airborne design to harness wind power directly from the sky.
SkySails manufactures fully automated large kites designed to fly at altitudes of 400 meters to capture the power of high altitude winds. During its ascent, the kite pulls a string attached to a winch and generator on the ground. The kite generates electricity as it soars into the sky and, once completely disassembled, uses only a fraction of the electricity generated to return to the ground.
Stephan Wrage, CEO of SkySails, says that airborne wind power systems mean that “the impact on people and the environment is minimal … The systems operate very quietly, they have virtually no visible effect on the landscape. and they barely cast a shadow, “he adds. .
Today, the design can generate a maximum capacity of 100 to 200 kilowatts, but a new partnership with German energy company RWE could increase potential output from kilowatts to megawatts. A spokesperson for RWE said the pair are looking for the ideal kite-flying site in the German countryside.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism