Wind energy is one of the fastest growing renewable sources, which works well on a scale, but is not perfect. The large size and moving parts of wind turbines make them challenging to roll out due to the space and maintenance they take up. But what if we could scale down that power to something that could fit on your roof? And be self-sufficient with smaller moving parts … or maybe without blades or moving parts at all? Let’s look at some future alternatives for harnessing wind energy. I’m Matt Ferrell … welcome to Undecided.
It is not difficult to see that, along with solar energy, wind energy has been a major player worldwide in reducing our carbon emissions from fossil fuels. According to the latest Global Wind report, a new 93 gigawatt global wind turbine was installed in 2020, bringing the total US Air Force to its maximum capacity. Currently,743 GW of wind power capacity is installed worldwide, making it the green power source with the most decarburization potential per MW. It helps avoid more than 1.1 billion tones of CO2 globally.
But, wind turbines aren’t all good. Wind turbines have several downsides. Harnessing wind requires high upfront costs, and the energy generation isn’t as effective for individual homes, or small scale installations, as they are at large scale. The construction of wind farms has also had an impact on wildlife. Although I kill a good number of birds and bats every year, when you look at these numbers in context, it’s a little out of proportion. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that between 140,000–500,000 birds die at wind farms each year.
Compared to the 2.4billion birds that are killed in the U.S. Every year, 1 billion domestic cats, or 1 billion birds, die by flying through the windows. There are simple solutions that have proven to be effective, such as simply painting one of the blades black. But there’s also the fact that turbines have lot of moving parts, like the gearbox, which require a decent amount of maintenance. They need to be checked two to three times a year.
And this is where solid-state wind power arrives on the scene. [^maintenance checkup] In 2013, researchers at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands removed the need for moving mechanical components and created EWICON, which stands for Electrostatic Wind Energy Converter, launching the development of the concept of wind ion generator. While it’s still very much in development, it provides significantly lower maintenance costs, less wear and tear, and no noise issues. And how it works is kind of fascinating.
EWICON uses air to carry the flow of charged particles into the air that can be used to generate electricity. In this case, water droplets are used to maintain a positive charge and, when the wind blows them, this wave of droplets generates electricity that can be transferred to the grid. A prototype of the EWICON is installed at the Delft University of Technology. An obvious downside of this idea is the reliance on water to carry the charge. You’d need a water line run to installations and it wouldn’t work at freezing temperatures. But there’s another idea called the Solid-State Wind-Energy Transformer (with the unfortunate acronym … SWET) developed by Richard Epstein. His approach is very similar to what the Dutch developed, but instead of using water his concept uses ionic currents to produce electricity.
This process is called “electro hydrodynamics”. Richard Epstein told the prototype that two l. A series of 55 parallel aluminum wires between 8-meter-high wooden masts is reported, separated by about 8 meters on a flat roof, and all wires were electrically heated by the mast. There were two types of wires in the prototype: pulling wires, which were simple wires, and exhaust wires about 15 cm apart. Attached were small tufts of carbon fibers with a diameter of 7 micrometers.
When small negative currents flow through the emitter wires, the beams create a corona discharge, releasing negative ions into the air. It’s not that different from ionic air purifiers that were all the rage in the early 2000's… if you remember the ionic breeze … I’m still trying to forget those commercials. Similarly, like the EWICON concept, the air moving across the wires carries with it negative ions, and the array receives a slightly positive charge. This causes electricity to flow from the ground, which can be collected as electricity.
The prototype developed by Epstein has just1/20 of a watt of power, but it’s just a prototype to prove the concept and it’s still at the first steps of its development. Utilizing the same principles of EWICON, the Dutch Wind wheel Corporation is developing a 160–180 meter high future landmark in Rotterdam. It’s like a sack that wraps with a drawstring. The hole in the center will be putting this solid-state energy generation to work. These designs are also designed to combine several green technologies, including rainwater capture, wetland filtration, and solar power.
Not to mention an apartment, a hotel and a panoramic bar. Who doesn’t love a good sky bar? It’s expected to be built sometime between 2022 and 2025.Now, no matter how cool the technology is, everything is still very much in the early stages of development, but there are other technologies that could reach the residential and urban market earlier. Another type of wind generator without moving parts was developed by Vortex Bladeless. But warning … sounds a little weird.
This Spanish company has developed a resonant wind vortex-induced vibration generator, which is based on the Vortex Shedding principle. The generator is built in the shape of a cylinder, producing electricity through an alternator system when the mast oscillates. The lower part of the rod is firmly attached to the ground, but the upper part is unrestricted and can vibrate. The structure is built with materials used in traditional wind turbine blades, using resins reinforced with carbon fiber and / or glass. Bladeless wind turbines get rid of mechanical elements that can suffer from friction. But how does this vibrating column produce vibration?
Well, to understand this, we’ll have to dive into the world of fluid mechanics. As the wind passes a blunt body, the flow changes, producing a cyclical vortex pattern known as a vortex spill. Imagine placing cylinder partially submerged into running water. If the water moves too fast or too slow, the vortices that form around the cylinder are chaotic. But if the speed of water and the frequency of the object are the same, the vortices are formed more continuously and will put pressure on the cylinder, which keeps it moving. Everybody or structure has a natural frequency.
When most of these vortices are close to the body, they begin to vibrate, vibrating with the wind. It is also known as vortex-induced vibration (VIV). You’ve probably seen or heard of the ramifications of this effect on bridges that weren’t designed properly, like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Engineers and architects design bridges and skyscrapers prevent this. They create structures with a resonant frequency other than the resonant sound of the air. But the Vortex Bladeless does the exact opposite of making the vortex-promoting vibration work. Vortex mast geometry is specifically designed to conduct a wide range of actual air speeds.
To convert this vibration into electricity, Vortex Bladeless turbines use an alternative to coils and magnets that can match vortex dynamics without gears, shaftsor rotating parts. This design provides reduced flexibility and eliminates the need for makeup. This magnetic confinement design acts as attuning system,” so it can increase the stiffness of the system according to the deformation that the wind causes. It is very precise and adapts its natural frequency to match the amount of air.
Today Vortex Bladless turbines harvest up to 30 percent of the area covered with the leaves of that old-fashioned wind turbine equal in height; this is called the swept area. What’s more important: vortex technology has less energy efficiency than traditional 3-blade turbines as the power output is equivalent to a swept wind turbine. On the flip side, a small swept area allows for more blade-free turbines to be placed in the same position, creating the space for power consumption. Running at low to medium wind speeds, it’s able to generate the same power for less cost.
It’s about 45% cheaper than a traditional 3-blade wind turbine. The Vortex Tacoma, which is 2.75 meters high, has an estimated cut power output of 100 watts, and the company expects Vortex Tacoma evenings to have the same price for mid-range solar panels. Now, getting closer to the residential market for wind turbines, Savories turbines have been gaining popularity. These wind turbines are simple drag-type devices with two or three mascops.
Because of their cracks, the mascops get less pulling when they are exposed to the same amount of pressure that they have when they are exposed to the elements. However, they are cost-effective, can operate regardless of the wind direction, the blades in the turbine need no mechanism to alter the angles, and they’re more bird and bat friendly than conventional 3-bladed turbines. With this idea in mind, the Iceland-based company Ice wind has been manufacturing Savoniuos turbines for residential and commercial applications.
Their CW100 mode, marketed as FREYA in the U.S., is designed to deliver long-lasting performance, with little or no performance for more than 25 years. This 1.5-meters high turbines able to withstand wind speeds up to 130 mph (60 m/s) and generate up to 600 watts. The company sells each turbine for $3,200and a complete on-grid system with a 1.5 kilowatt inverter for $4,180. In the U.S. the cost of a set of solar panels to produce the same 600 watts would be around $1,932.
The turbines a bit more expensive, but you also get the potential for producing power during the night. But the innovations on wind power don’t stop here. Halcium, a startup based in Salt Lake City, Utah is hoping it’s portable wind turbine will be the next big innovation in green energy. The company’s been developing what they call a Power Pod, which is a small-scale wind turbine designed specifically to work in towns and cities. Continuous Reading…