Top 10 | Wind Turbines

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) released their 20% Wind Report Card on July 8, following up on a study in which the Department of Energy proposed a goal where 20 percent of U.S. electricity comes from wind energy by 2030. The AWEA gave the overall U.S. push for wind power a “solid B”—high marks from an advocacy group that grades U.S. infrastructure. The highest letter in the report was an A- awarded for “Technology Development.” This is no big surprise—for years now, the government, alternative-energy researchers and entrepreneurs have been putting time and money into making better tech for cleaner, more efficient energy production. Here are 10 wind turbine designs that push the limits of the current design and may help the U.S. get back to being an A student by 2030.

1. Whale Power

 

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What It Is

The company, Whale Power, has redesigned the typically smooth blades on a turbine, adding a series of ridges, based on tubercles, the bumps on humpback whale fins. The company says this new blade design could increase annual electrical production for existing wind farms by 20 percent.

How It Works

Humpback whales tilt their fins at steep angles to achieve better lift in the water. Too much tilt, however, has the opposite effect–a loss of lift, called stalling. Tubercles prevent stalling, allowing for more aggressive fin tilts. Whale Power’s tubercle-like structures on the turbine blades allow the blades to have steeper angles–without causing stalling or creating too much drag. During low wind, blades with steeper angles can theoretically generate significantly more power. Wind tunnel tests published by Frank Fish, president and founder of Whale Power, and by Duke University fluid dynamics expert Laurens Howle in 2004 showed that, in some cases, adding tubercle-like bumps to model fins pushed back the stall angle by as much as 40 percent.

Where To Find It

Testing on the tubercle-enhanced blades began in 2007 at The Wind Energy Institute of Canada in Prince Edward Island. A Canadian ventilation company, Envira-North Systems, will be the first to use tubercle technology in industrial fans.

2. Quiet Revolution qr5

 

02-Quiet Revolution qr5-wind turbine

What It Is

The qr5 wind turbine is designed for an urban environment with low wind speeds and changing wind directions.

How It Works

Traditional wind turbines capture horizontal winds and must rotate to follow changes in wind direction. The qr5’s helical design allows the turbine to collect wind from all directions equally.

Where To Find It

The first qr5 turbine was installed in Dagenham, a suburb of London, in March 2007. At the end of 2008, over 70 turbines had been installed throughout the United Kingdom, where each unit generates between 4000 and 10000 kilowatt-hours per year, according to the company.

3. Windspire

 

03-Windspire-wind turbine

What It Is

Wind spire is a vertical wind turbine, similar to the Quiet Revolution. This 30-foot tall, 4-foot wide turbine generates 2000 kilowatts per hour given 12-mph winds, and it can survive winds up to 105 mph.

How It Works

Wind spire has a tall, thin propeller less rotor. It generates power when wind spins its vertical airfoils.

Where To Find It

These wind turbines have been installed across the county in homes, museums, businesses and schools. For example, the Michigan governor’s residence has a wind turbine, and Quinnipiac College in Connecticut is planning to use the turbines on campus to help power its buildings.

4. Mageen Air Rotor System (MARS)

 

04-Mageen Air Rotor System (MARS)-wind turbine

What It Is

MARS is a high-altitude wind turbine that stays afloat with a helium-filled, airship-like body. It can be tethered up to 1000 feet in the air.

How It Works

MARS rotates around a horizontal axis as the wind hits fins along the side. The rotation generates electricity, which is transferred down the power line, which doubles as its tether, to the ground.

Where To Find It

MARS is still being tested, but it is scheduled to be released for commercial use in 2009 or 2010. Suggested locations for the turbine include off-shore drilling stations, islands, and mining sites.

 

5. Windbelt

 

05-Windbelt-wind turbine

What It Is

The Windbelt, created by PM Breakthrough Award Winner, Shawn Frayne, is a small-scale wind turbine that can generate 40 milliwatts in 10-mph winds and only costs a couple of dollars. The goal is to help the poor power their lights cheaply and safely.

How It Works

A pair of magnets fitted on a membrane oscillate between two wire coils to generate electricity.

Where To Find It

This wind turbine is aimed at Third World countries, with installations in Haiti and Guatemala.

6. Honeywell Wind Turbine

 

06-Honneywell wind Turbine_on_Sky-47

What It Is

Honeywell is a rooftop wind turbine that works in wind speeds as low as 2 miles per hour.

How It Works

The Honeywell turbine does not have gears like traditional wind turbines. Instead, it creates power from magnets in its blade tips and in the enclosure for the blades. This, claims Honeywell, results in lower resistance, which can mean higher energy output.

Where To Find It

The Honeywell is designed for homes and businesses. It will be available at ACE Hardware this fall.

 

7. WePOWER

07-We-power-wind turbine

What It Is

WePOWER is a vertical-axis wind turbine that operates quietly and performs well in low-speed winds.

How It Works

Unlike many turbines, which either rely solely on lift (in the case of traditional three-blade turbines) or drag (used in wind-speed gauge anemometers), WePOWER uses a combination of both. Its unique airfoil lets it produce power at low wind speeds.

Where To Find It

At Jay Leno’s garage, of course. WePOWER turbines are also used in wind farms, homes, cell towers and buildings.

 

8. Spiral Drag Wind Turbine

 

08-Spiral Drag Wind Turbine

What It Is

This vertical axis turbine uses drag propulsion to push the blade that is designed as an involute spiral.

How It Works

The turbine uses aluminum vanes formed into an involute spiral–giving the blade extremely high surface area–to capture wind and rotate.

Where To Find It

The design is still in developmental stages.

 

9. Architectural Wind

 

09-Architectural-Wind-Boston-Logan-Airport

What It Is

Architectural Wind is a small wind turbine that can be mounted on the top edge of a building.

How It Works

When wind hits a building, the resistance creates an area of accelerated air flow–straight up the side of the building. This wind turbine catches the faster winds as they travel up the wall.

Where To Find It

A variety of buildings have installed rows of these turbines, including the Maui Ocean Center in Hawaii and Logan International Airport in Boston.

 

10. Sky Serpent

 

10-sky serpent-superturbine-wind turbine

What It Is

The Sky Serpent makes use of multiple rotors attached to a single generator.

How It Works

Past multi-rotor turbines have run into trouble because their rotors just catch the wind generated by the spin of neighboring rotors. The Sky Serpent’s rotors are spaced and angled to ensure that each one is catching fresh wind.

Where To Find It

These turbines are being built and tested in California, in part funded the California Energy Commission.

Air-Powered Car Coming to Hit 1000-Mile Range

The Air Car caused a huge stir when we reported last year that Tata Motors would begin producing it in India. Now the little gas-free ride that could is headed Stateside in a big-time way.

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Zero Pollution Motors (ZPM) confirmed on Thursday that it expects to produce the world’s first air-powered car for the United States by late 2009 or early 2010. As the U.S. licensee for Luxembourg-based MDI, which developed the Air Car as a compression-based alternative to the internal combustion engine, ZPM has attained rights to build the first of several modular plants, which are likely to begin manufacturing in the Northeast and grow for regional production around the country, at a clip of up to 10,000 Air Cars per year.

And while ZPM is also licensed to build MDI’s two-seater One CAT economy model (the one headed for India) and three-seat Mini CAT (like a Smart For Two without the gas), the New Paltz, N.Y., startup is aiming bigger: Company officials want to make the first air-powered car to hit U.S. roads a $17,800, 75-hp equivalent, six-seat modified version of MDI’s City CAT (pictured above) that, thanks to an even more radical engine, is said to travel as far as 1000 miles at up to 96 mph with each tiny fill-up.

01-aircar-production-launching next year-guy negre, MDI, Motor development International

We’ll believe that when we drive it, but MDI’s new dual-energy engine—currently being installed in models at MDI facilities overseas—is still pretty damn cool in concept. After using compressed air fed from the same Airbus-built tanks in earlier models to run its pistons, the next-gen Air Car has a supplemental energy source to kick in north of 35 mph, ZPM says. A custom heating chamber heats the air in a process officials refused to elaborate upon, though they insisted it would increase volume and thus the car’s range and speed.

"I want to stress that these are estimates, and that we’ll know soon more precisely from our engineers," ZPM spokesman Kevin Haydon told PM, "but a vehicle with one tank of air and, say, 8 gal. of either conventional petrol, ethanol or biofuel could hit between 800 and 1000 miles."

Those figures would make the Air Car, along with Aptera’s Typ-1 and Tesla’s Roadster, a favorite among early entrants for the Automotive X Prize, for which MDI and ZPM have already signed up. But with the family-size, four-door City CAT undergoing standard safety tests in Europe, then side-impact tests once it arrives in the States, could it be the first 100-mpg, nonelectric car you can actually buy?