Technology

Six amazing wind innovations

 By Amanda Saint

The latest designs and ideas in the wind energy sector are very different from the windmill style turbines that have led the way. Much of the innovation has been driven by the fact that traditional turbines are not suitable for all weather conditions. There is now even a wind turbine that can generate power when there is no wind…

The innovations listed here are some of the most exciting developments in the wind sector today:

• Wind Innovation #1The Typhoon Turbine: Tokyo-based engineer, Atsushi Shimizu, has invented the world’s first typhoon-powered wind turbine to tap into the huge amounts of energy generated by tropical typhoons. Based on the Magnus effect, which is what makes spherical objects such as balls curve when thrown, the design features a central rod and three cylinders and doesn’t rely on a propellor to spin—meaning it can generate power from wind blowing in all directions.

The First Test in Okinawa (challenergy.com)

• Wind Innovation #2IceWind CW-1000: Icelandic company, IceWind’s vertical axis wind turbines have been designed to generate energy in both low wind and extreme wind conditions. Not only that, they are architecturally pleasing to the eye and could be mistaken for artistic installations. Able to completely power a home or farm, they are almost silent and do not impact wildlife in the same way rotating turbines do. The company also offers a smaller version, the IceWind RW, which can be installed on telecommunications masts and surveillance towers to provide power in difficult weather conditions. It can withstand winds up to Category 4 Hurricane speeds.

"The Tech That Could Fix One of Wind Power's Biggest Problems" by Bloomerg (Bloomerg Youtube channel) - icewind.is

• Wind Innovation #3I6O+ Wind/Hydro Plant: Max Bögl Wind AG and GE Renewable Energy are building the world’s first wind-hydro plant, which is set to be fully operational by 2018 and will be able to generate energy even when there’s no wind. By combining hydropower with wind power, the plant is expected to overcome some of the supply reliability issues that define the renewable energy sector. The wind turbines that will be installed at the plant will be the tallest in the world, standing at 584 feet high.

Max Bögl hybrid tower system (max-boegl.de)

• Wind Innovation #4Wind Catcher Max: Engineering students at Bucks County Community College in the US have developed an alternative wind energy generator based on an idea by a 20-year old student, Pavel Lelyukh. The Wind Catcher Max has recently received a $10,000 investment through the National Science Foundation’s Community College Innovation Challenge to fund a feasibility study. It impressed the judges with its innovative design that funnels wind into a central core; recycles water; takes up less space than traditional turbines and solar farms; is made of lighter materials; and has less impact on wildlife. You can watch the video the team made for their entry and see how the Wind Catcher Max will work:

Wind Catcher Max (Society of Bucks Engineers)

• Wind Innovation #5AT-Buoyant Airborne Turbine: Altaeros Energies, which was founded in 2010 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has developed an autonomous, tethered, helium-filled turbine that floats 1,000 feet in the air and captures wind currents five to eight times more powerful than the breezes at ground level. Because it can be easily deployed and doesn’t require a crew to manage it continuously, it can be used to generate electricity in difficult to power areas. It is expected to be particularly useful for remote communities in developing countries and also in cases of natural disasters.

Introducing the Altaeros BAT (altaerosenergies.com)

• Wind Innovation #6Vortex Bladeless Wind Turbine: this new style turbine essentially looks like the traditional ones without the rotating blades but it has advanced a long way from its predecessors. Developed by a Spanish company, the Vortex Bladeless Wind Turbine saves 53 percent in manufacturing costs and 51 percent in operating costs compared to conventional wind turbines. It captures the wind’s kinetic energy through silent turbines that don’t upset wildlife and a prototype is now being scaled up to a version that will be capable of powering a typical European household. Investments into the innovation have come through both private investors and crowdfunding campaigns.

Vortex bladeless wind generator (vortexbladeless.com)

With global wind energy set to double in the next five years, an increasing number of innovations may continue to come out of colleges, companies and universities worldwide.

about the author
Amanda Saint
Journalist and content writer, specialised in engineering and technology with a focus on environmental sustainability, urbanisation and biotechnology.