Six Innovative Wind Turbines

In this article we will review a few new wind turbine designs that are ready to advance the state of wind energy technology.  With refined technology, engineers have developed new devices that are more efficient, work in low wind conditions, can use wind and water energy, and safer for birds.  These problems provide abundant opportunity for solving design problems for mechanical engineers.  Energy storage, battery technology, and the strength of turbine blades provides copious challenges for materials scientists.  Renewable energy capacity around the globe has eclipsed coal power for the first time ever. Wind power makes up a large percentage of global renewable energy, and with all the recent technological innovations in wind turbine design, it’s no mystery that it’s become the fastest-growing form of clean energy.  We hope you find this brief survey of new wind technology compelling.



A Hybrid Wind-Hydro Turbine

How does a wind turbine generate electricity when there’s no breeze? It can’t operate without wind, so the energy must be stored for later use in order to stabilize the power grid and not require excessing used of “peaker plants”.  With the current limitations of batteries, storage is a problem that needs attention. Their storage solution is to pump water up hill that can be stored for later use by a water turbine.  While not nearing the storage efficiency of batteries, the sheer amount of energy that can be stored by water and gravity is simply massive and dwarfs batteries.   It is the world’s first hybrid wind-hydro energy generator.  Set to be located in Germany’s Swabian-Franconian Forest, the project will initially feature four wind turbines with a capacity of 13.6 megawatts. The first phase is slated to connect to the grid next year, and the second phase will add a 16MW hydroelectric power plant, expected to be completed in 2018.   Wind Turbine with Hydro Storage

Typhoon Turbine 

The world’s first typhoon turbine was invented to tap into the massive amounts of energy contained within storms common to his homeland of Japan.  Mechanical and Materials Engineers estimated energy stored in one typhoon could power the nation for 50 years, if only it could be harnessed. The egg beater-like contraption is a vertical-axis Magnus wind power generator robust enough to withstand the high winds of a typhoon. Engineers conducted tests with a scale model of the wind energy generator yielding promising results.  The stresses involved for a structure to survive typhoon conditions will tax the metal alloys, materials in general, and certainly the materials scientists responsible for strength of materials.  Investors want to help build larger practical versions in the hopes of one day feeding typhoon power into the nation’s grid. 

Helium-filled Floating Wind Turbines

While most wind energy projects are firmly rooted in the ground or at sea, some recent innovations are putting turbines high in the sky, where wind moves fastest. Engineers developed the world’s first airborne wind turbine launched in 2014 over Fairbanks, Alaska. Held aloft by helium like a giant cylindrical blimp, the BAT-Buoynat Airborne Turbine, a MIT startup built it to float 1,000 feet in the air and capture wind currents five to eight times more powerful than those at ground level. The 18-month experiment generated enough energy to power a dozen households. Because of their sky-high positioning, BAT systems can also also transmit WiFi and cell signals, and double as weather sensors.    Floating Wind Turbine

Vortex Bladeless Wind Turbine

Mechanical Engineers, consummate environmentalists (at least we are), realized Bird safety is a big issue in the world of wind turbines. In order to reduce the danger for our flying feathered friends, engineers created the Vortex Bladeless™ wind energy generator, which is shaped like a tall, thin straw rather than having large rotating blades. The device harvests energy from swirling vortices in moving air, and since the blade-less wind energy generators are tall and thin, several of them can be installed in the space that a single blade turbine takes up. Its creators say the Vortex Bladeless™ cuts manufacturing costs by 53 percent and maintenance costs by as much as 80 percent compared to traditional turbines, and it has a smaller carbon footprint too.  (Turbines)

INVELOX Wind Tunnel Tower 

Mechanical and Materials developed and innovative wind turbine is capable of producing 600 times more energy than conventional windmills. The SheerWind Invelox™ turbine is a tunnel-based wind energy generator that harnesses breezes at ground level and funnels them inward, accelerating the air’s speed. The Invelox™ generator can function even in wind conditions as low as 1 mph.  Since it has no external blades rotating at high speeds, it doesn’t endanger local wildlife. Since the turbine is internal, it has no external blades rotating at high speeds, thus it doesn’t endanger local wildlife. It’s also less expensive to build than traditional wind turbines.  It utiltizes a funnel to concentrate the wind velocity to the turbine, then an expansion section.  Based in Chaska, Minnesota, their LinkedIn page Invelox on LinkedIn has some nice images, although their website is problematic, which makes us wonder about their current status.

Bird-Friendly Catching Wind Power

One of the oldest designs in this roundup was created by an 89-year-old military veteran who is also a bird lover. In 2012, Raymond Green designed the Catching Wind Power generator, which funnels wind currents with what looks like a giant megaphone and then compresses the incoming air in order to create more power at the turbine within. There are no external moving parts to pose a threat to birds or bats, though, making Catching Wind Power a lot safer than traditional designs. Green designed the system to be scaleable, hoping that both residential and industrial installations can generate renewable energy without endangering birds. (Engineering Wind)


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