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Bladeless wind turbines--big and small
Old 05-07-2015, 08:07 PM   #1
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Bladeless wind turbines--big and small

A Spanish startup has developed a wind turbine that uses the pressure differential caused by vortices passing a single mast to generate power, replacing the blades on a conventional wind turbine. They say the benefits are:
Lower noise
No dead birds
53% reduction in manufacturing costs (compared to large conventional wind turbines)
80% reduction in maintenance costs (no rigid parts rub against each other, no periodic lubrication, etc)
More at this link: Forbes article
They are planing to build big ones, but also 100W units for remote villages in the 3rd world and a 40' tall, 220 lb unit with a capacity of 4KW for use by off-grid homes (together with solar).

Compared to regular wind turbines, this design collects 30% less energy for the same swept area, but the devices will be cheap enough to build, install, and operate that they say it will reduce the cost of wind power by over 50%. Time will tell.

Investment opportunities will reportedly be available, obviously any money plunked down on this would be highly speculative. But the tech is interesting.
Unfortunately (to my eye), a field of them would be just about as ugly as regular wind turbines. Still, if I had an off-grid house, I'd much prefer a few of these at the edge of my property than a spinning wind turbine. The company's web site is obnoxious, but contains this bit about how it works. It just oscillates a bit in the breeze, that produces the power.

Video of Bladeless Wind Turbine


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Old 05-07-2015, 08:25 PM   #2
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Interesting! It is like the sway in skyscrapers (which are designed to sway)

I wonder how they capture the energy? I would probably try rare earth magnets on the swaying shaft somewhere near the bottom and fixed coils of wire (any change in magnetic field passing through a wire will generate current in the wire, it doesn't have to be in the form of a traditional rotating motor/generator).

Sounds like something you could build in your garage in a few hours.
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Old 05-07-2015, 08:27 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Fermion View Post
I wonder how they capture the energy?
I dunno either. I was guessing it might be some type of piezoelectric gizmo.
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Old 05-07-2015, 10:03 PM   #4
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Very interesting - this video has some English, and it says electromagnetic:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=10&v=2_5K4kmnsL4


I like the fact that they are not hyping the efficiency, they admit it is lower, but expect the cost to be even lower on a $/W basis.

The prototype runs in low winds (3-15 mph), and we know there is very, very little power there. They say their next proto shoots for operation in 7~ 33 mph winds. So hopefully they get there.

I'm curious just where they capture the motion to drive magnets.

I think they have the right plan - if this works, combine with solar and batteries, and you have some complimentary power sources (so smaller battery, and/or longer storage time) for 3rd world, off-grid use. Long way to go to see if it can compete with the big blades.

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Old 05-07-2015, 10:19 PM   #5
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Vestas should be on alert. If this system can be made cost effective it will be a game changer.
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Old 05-07-2015, 10:56 PM   #6
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Very cool!
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Old 05-08-2015, 03:01 AM   #7
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Conversion of mechanical motion to electrical energy is of course by electromagnetic means, but I could not find any description of how they do it. But I suspect that they have internal counter-oscillating masses, similar to flashlights that are powered by shaking. See: Mechanically powered flashlight - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The oscillating airfoil must face the wind properly, and as the wind changes direction, the structure must have a bearing at the base for rotation. There are still moving parts, and so this interesting design will have different problems to solve, such as fatigue of various restraining springs or internal parts.

PS. I am not an aerodynamicist to know if the oscillating structure can be designed to be symmetrical, but their inverted cone appears to be. If so, it can respond to wind from any direction (the plane of the oscillation will be perpendicular to the wind direction). Then, it would not need to rotate to face the wind, but extracting the power from the motion is going to be trickier because the plane of the motion is not fixed.

PPS. I found the following presentation that talked of having the electrical generator all at the base. Initially, they used some piezoelectric material, but that provided very little power. So, they are working with a new "linear generator" design using magnets. Not much more details or diagrams were provided.

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Old 05-08-2015, 04:30 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by NW-Bound View Post
The oscillating airfoil must face the wind properly, and as the wind changes direction, the structure must have a bearing at the base for rotation.
I'm not sure about that. The units in their video and picture don't appear to have a "normal" airfoil (with a leading edge, trailing edge, camber, etc). It's just a tube or in other instances a slightly tapered cone, and that would be able to use wind from any direction without needing to pivot, no bearings, etc. But it does oscillate, so likely there's a spring or a flexible (?composite?) section that might eventually fail due to stress. Still, with the right material choices and engineering, that could take a LONG time.
Blades on conventional turbines also bend and probably have fatigue life limits, too. A failure of one of those would be a lot more dangerous and lot harder to mitigate through mechanical means than a failure of the mast on this new design (Whatever comes off won't be traveling any faster than the wind, and likely to fall pretty close to the base. Not so with a conventional turbine blade.).
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Old 05-08-2015, 06:03 AM   #9
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Let's glue some branches and leaves on it and call it a tree.
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Old 05-08-2015, 07:50 AM   #10
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Let's glue some branches and leaves on it and call it a tree.
Right. With the added surface area more wind is captured, bigger deflection, more power. The moving parts would need to be more robust to handle the additional loads.

See, bigger is better.
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Old 05-08-2015, 08:57 AM   #11
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But will he have a patent battle with Claes Oldenburg (this is the Batcolumn, some 'artwork' in Chicago)? Maybe it can be upgraded to produce energy?




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Originally Posted by samclem View Post
I'm not sure about that. The units in their video and picture don't appear to have a "normal" airfoil (with a leading edge, trailing edge, camber, etc). It's just a tube or in other instances a slightly tapered cone, and that would be able to use wind from any direction without needing to pivot, no bearings, etc. But it does oscillate, so likely there's a spring or a flexible (?composite?) section that might eventually fail due to stress. Still, with the right material choices and engineering, that could take a LONG time. ...
I also thought it was non-directional. Here's some science on the effect:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vorticity

And I wonder about fatigue also, seems to be a lot of bending going on, but then again, distributed along most of the lengthen. That's an engineering/materials problem, so it can be answered by the right people with the right information.

I'm guessing the energy is harvested with a disk towards the base (he pointed to the linear alternator as being ~ 1/4 of the way up I think). I picture the disk/magnets being horizontal, and the coils in a fixed toroidal arrangement above and below the disk, so any movement of the disk has the magnets moving in relation to those coils and creating a current.

It's also interesting that they found a second one near the first created more energy, due to the vortex from the first, though they don't know how far this will scale up.

So their 4KW model is ~ 40' high - not small by any means, but if it hits a capacity factor of 25% (seems conservative from a little googling), that's about enough to power a home.


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Quote:
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Let's glue some branches and leaves on it and call it a tree.
Right. With the added surface area more wind is captured, bigger deflection, more power. The moving parts would need to be more robust to handle the additional loads.

See, bigger is better.
I don't think so. Adding stuff to it would just make it get pushed over, they want it to oscillate in the wind.

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Old 05-08-2015, 09:39 AM   #12
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In the postscript, I corrected myself when I observed that the vibrating structure - indeed not an airfoil in the normal sense which is designed to avoid creating vortices - is symmetrical and will respond to wind from all directions. I also wondered how their "linear" generator would respond to oscillations in different vertical planes.

Anyway, any novel new design will avoid existing limitations just to create some new problems. And the designer will not discover them until he tries. And people will have to try, else we would be stuck with horse-drawn carriages. I am not a naysayer, but just try to figure out what problems he will have to solve.

And talk about vertical wind structures, how about more conventional designs like the following? I looked at a few that have been in production, figuring that if one is inexpensive enough I would buy a small one to play with in my high-country home which has lots of wind. They are more expensive than conventional turbines!

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Old 05-08-2015, 09:52 AM   #13
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I have toyed with the idea of building a wind generator based on sailing. Advantage would be it could work in extremely light winds (say 4 or 5mph) and could be scaled up with a taller mast and sail.

The mechanism needed would be something to spill the wind in the "jib" and sheet it in for the next linear power stroke. Then a simple linear motor wired as a generator to capture the energy from the stroke.
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Old 05-08-2015, 10:09 AM   #14
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Designs that work well in light winds will break when the wind gets strong. You can't win.
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Old 05-08-2015, 10:22 AM   #15
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Designs that work well in light winds will break when the wind gets strong. You can't win.
It could be possible to have a design that would actively pull in the 'sail' (or other mechanism) as the wind increases. They do that on sailing ships, don't they?

I'm not saying it is practical, just possible.

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Old 05-08-2015, 10:23 AM   #16
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Designs that work well in light winds will break when the wind gets strong. You can't win.
You could use a roller furling to lessen the surface area of the jib during high wind.
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Old 05-08-2015, 10:46 AM   #17
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Bladeless windmills opens a whole new science.EWICON bladeless wind turbine generates electricity using charged water droplets
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Old 05-08-2015, 11:04 AM   #18
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I better read up on this , as I seem to be in an Inherit the wind situation .
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Old 05-08-2015, 11:09 AM   #19
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It could be possible to have a design that would actively pull in the 'sail' (or other mechanism) as the wind increases. They do that on sailing ships, don't they?

I'm not saying it is practical, just possible.

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You could use a roller furling to lessen the surface area of the jib during high wind.
Yes. But it creates more things to fail. Things that start out simple are no longer so.
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Old 05-08-2015, 11:44 AM   #20
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Compared to regular wind turbines, this design collects 30% less energy FOR THE SAME SWEPT AREA
But since these are very skinny structures isn't the swept area of one of these devices much less than that of a conventional turbine of similar height?

It does look like a cool idea, but I wonder if one would need to use a LOT of these to replicate the output of a turbine.
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