The standard three-blade wind turbine has been the dominate design for decades, and has become incrementally more efficient and cost-effective over time. Now a few pioneering startups are rethinking the wind turbine with prototypes that are pushing the boundaries of efficiency, geography, and aesthetics. Here are some of the more interesting designs on the horizon in phases ranging from concept to production:
1. The Altaeros Energies High Altitude Wind Turbine
Altaeros Energies is in the development stages of creating a high altitude blimp-like wind turbine. The benefits? First, wind speeds are higher at higher altitudes, meaning more concentrated and efficient power. The second is remote or mountainous locations that otherwise could not have installed turbines, now have the chance to benefit from wind energy. Temporary sites for the military or first-aid can benefit from a mobile clean generation source such as the Altaeros. Altaeros has received funding from everyone from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to Mitsubishi.
2. The ecoROTR Shielded Wind Turbine
One of the more practical innovations in wind technology - the ecoROTR - was created by GE engineers. It is a 60ft in diameter dome that is placed in front of the turbine, redirecting the wind to the outer edges of the blades. So far in tests it has increased the efficiency of smaller scale turbines by 3%. GE engineers are still perfecting the dome, but a 3% increase at scale sure would have a significant impact across the industry.
3. The Dutch Windwheel
The Dutch Windwheel is a future sustainability icon for the Netherlands, that will become an economic and renewable energy engine in Europe’s largest port city of Rotterdam. As the most innovative ‘windmill’ in the world, this panoramic wheel has EWICON (Electrostatic Wind Energy CONverter) technology, which results in less wear and tear, costs, and noise while also allowing disassembly and re-use. The unique landmark will act as a showcase for Dutch Clean Technology while boosting tourism with its panoramic restaurant and other commercial features.
4. Google’s Makani Airborne Wind Generators
Google’s new 600 kW energy kites provide more wind at a lower cost. The innovative kites reach altitudes as high as 350 meters and are extremely aerodynamic, enabling them to potentially generate 50% more wind while using 90% less material than traditional wind turbines. Learn more about its unique architecture here.
5. Wind Turbine Bridge
As the wind energy sector grows one of the main challenges is figuring out where to put turbines, which is why a team of Spanish and British engineers are proposing to build them into existing bridges. This would be especially beneficial in untouched urban areas where space is scarce and many people are concerned with turbine’s aesthetic appearance. The team of engineers has argued that two medium-sized turbines would be ideal for most bridges, which would result in enough energy for 500 homes each year.
6. The Invelox Wind Turbine
INVELOX is the first wind tower - and funnel - with the ability to collect wind from any direction and power multiple turbines in a row or series, which means, up to potentially 600% more energy. Although it has a way to go to be proven as a concept, aside from the benefit of increased efficiency, the INVELOX is also cheaper, and enables more scalable and flexible operation and maintenance.
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