as climate change continues to wreak havoc on the planet, people are seeking more efficient sources
of renewable energy. while new technologies are developed each year to combat the issue, one ancient
source of energy continues to surpass them all. that’s right, wind power continues to be one of the most
cost-effective and efficient sources of sustainable energy available. however this simple technology has
been perfected over the years and new and improved models continue to emerge. here is a look at the
state of wind power today, from the biggest most ambitious projects to small and humble designs for
the straight wing wind turbine design is by far the most ubiquitous,
but the ‘loopwing’ surpasses it is
capturing energy from light winds.
this japanese design also takes up less vertical space than the
conventional form. its unique blade design operates with very little
vibration increasing its efficiency,
achieving 43% power performance at
a wind speeds of 8m/h. the design is intended to be used for
scale power generation, rather than large-scale wind farms. the
‘loopwing’ was also a winning
entry in the 2006 good design awards.
like the ‘loopwing’, the ‘energy ball’ is a small scale wind turbine
designed for home and commercial
use. the design is manufactured by the
swedish company home energy. the design uses the venturi
funnel wind within the turbine’s blades, allowing the machine to
operate with high
efficiency and low noise. the turbine uses a set of
six curved blades that spin around the center axis
to create a sphere.
because the blades are able to funnel a large amount of wind into a
the ‘energy ball’ remains efficient in low wind scenarios.
manufactured by broadstar, the ‘aerocam’ wind turbine aims to provide a
large wind catching surface
in a compact volume. the design features a
series of long blades arranges around a circular frame,
similar to a
water-wheel. the blades catch the wind and spin the turbine around a
the design is suited for personal as well as wind farm
applications and claims to be the first turbine to
break the 1 usd/watt
cost barrier. the device also has a low rotational speed to keep noise
the product could be a viable alternative to the high cost
of traditional flat-blade turbine’s but it remains
a prototype at this
like the previous examples, ‘helix wind’ is a wind turbine designed to
operate at low speeds.
the ‘helix wind’ features a unique sail-like
form that catches the wind over a broad surface area
directions. this form allows the electric generator to spin with a
smooth and powerful
force. the design can be installed at lower heights
than most wind turbines because of its form
and can be used both on and
off grid. the vertical spinning axis helps keep noise low and the
compact size is ideal for urban areas as well as more rural.
additionally, because the scoops are
more solid than individual blades,
birds and other wildlife are much safer.
while we are all familiar with ground level wind turbines, but it may
surprise you to know that these designs
are only 20-25% efficient. the
magenn air rotor is a prototype wind turbine that is made from an
blimp. the helium filled blimp floats in the air at 600-1000
ft, tethered to the ground. because winds are much
stronger at higher
altitudes, the air rotor can operate at closer to 50% efficiency. the
air rotor generate several
megawatts of power and runs cheaper than
up until now wind turbines have always been installed as individual
units, but doug selsam is an american
inventor who developed a method
for joining multiple turbines together. while normal turbine designs
big and powerful, they are also expensive and difficult to install.
selsam took a smaller approach, linking
multiple rotors onto the same
shaft. this idea allows small and inexpensive designs to be deployed,
that aren’t as powerful as the big ones, but quite efficient. each
rotor captures wind increasing the efficiency
of the whole and if
aligned correctly can use one tenth the material to produce the same
wattage as the big
boys. popular science magazine even named the ‘sky
serpent’ the invention of the year in 2008. selsam is
conceptualizing ways to deploy his design on a larger scale like open
like the magenn air rotor, the flying electric generator by sky
windpower is a flying wind turbine
which takes advantage of the
increased wind speed at high altitudes. the flying electric generator
aims to literally go higher than the magenn, floating at upwards of
30,000 feet from the ground.
the design is deployed at this height to
capture energy from the ultra-powerful jet-stream winds.
weighs around 1,100 pounds and could produce energy at around 2 cents
the design features four horizontal rotors which are all mounted
to a frame and tether to the ground.
sky windpower envisions even large
models to be used as floating wind farms.
while some wind turbines go big and some go small, agustin otegui’s go
nano. that’s right, the mexican
designer has created wind turbines
at a nano scale. ‘nano vent skin’ features a series of micro turbines
combined together into a fabric that can be deployed in a variety of
applications like on buildings or
vehicles. while each turbine only
generates a tiny amount of power, the net effect is huge, equaling that
of bigger turbines. the simplicity and small size allows the design to
be deployed almost anywhere
similar to solar panels.
GROW is a hybrid source for sustainable power, gathering energy from
both the wind and sun through
its ivy-inspired design. The project
combines photovoltaic and piezoelectric technologies into one system
that can be fully monitored by the user. The cell-like design allows
the system to be installed on the exterior
of buildings, adapting
easily to the building’s typology. It is manufactured using recycled
materials whenever possible to minimize its environmental
impact. SMIT, the sustainable design start-up
behind the GROW project
has been working on it for over two years and is currently working
a market-ready version.
the conventional wisdom is ‘the bigger, the better’, but the ‘hy mini’
proves maybe small has its place.
unlike the other turbines we have
highlighted, the ‘hy mini’ takes a decidedly smaller approach to wind
power. the handheld device uses a small plastic fan blade to generate a
small amount of power, which is
sufficient to power small gadgets like
your phone or mp3 player. the device has a small battery inside
stores the power generated by the fan and makes it available to your
electronics. the fan can be
blown in a number of ways like walking,
biking or just waving it around in the air.
designed by architect michael jantzen, the ‘wind tunnel footbridge’ is
a conceptually idea for a wind power
generator that is more than just a
turbine. the design uses a series of horizontal wind turbines similar
‘aerocam’ model, except it arranges them around a footbridge.
the design is able to generate wind power but
at the same time allows
pedestrians to cross the bridge. the bridge would be made from steel
and feature five wheels which would turn in two
directions, three one way to two the other.
while michael jantzen’s wind tunnel footbridge takes wind power to a
new level, a number of new
buildings are going a step further by
integrating wind turbines into their design. the ‘bahrain world trade
center’ is one building using power from embedded wind turbines. it was
completed last year and features
three massive 29m turbines installed
between its two towers. these turbines now produce around 10%-15%
the structure’s power.
in london, a new residential tower in the city’s elephant & castle
neighbourhood is being construction,
which had three large turbines
embedded in its peak. the eco-forward development aims to regenerate
the area with its design. the peak will hold three 9m turbines that when combined with a grey water
recycling system and a
district heating scheme, will make the development one of the city’s
sustainable when it is complete.
much like the inclusion of wind in buildings, there is also a growing
trend toward wind powered land
vehicles. however this technology is
rather new and won’t be in a dealership anytime soon, if ever.
the leading examples is a prototype vehicle called the ‘greenbird’.
this super aerodynamic car
owns the title of the fastest wind powered
vehicle on earth. its bullet like design can be used on both
and ice. by using solid sails to capture the wind, the vehicle can
accelerate to speeds
3 to 5 times higher than the actual wind.
not to be outdone, mercedes benze has designed their own wind powered
land vehicle. ‘formula zero’
is a shiny shark like vehicle which was
designed for the los angeles challenge, a car race that takes
efficiency into account. the design not only features a large solid
sail, but also a solar panel skin
which helps drive sustainable energy
to the wheels.
more via emercedesbenz.com