In order to lower the cost of creating wind energy, scientists are testing bladeless wind turbines which shake violently instead of using spinning parts.
In general, vertical designs for wind energy generators aren’t popular- many see them as an eyesore that spoil pretty countryside and make lots of noise. However, scientists and designers continue to create new designs for the structures and one of the most recent inventions may prove to be less objectionable than others.
A startup company originating from Spain called Vortex has created the new turbines, imaginatively called Bladeless. They don’t spin or turn, but instead shake quickly backwards and forwards on the spot. The white turbines are created so that they can oscillate due to the way the wind flows around them. This phenomenon, known as vorticity, is usually prevented from happening to buildings by architects but the bladeless turbines encourage it to happen and it makes the tall structures shake.
Vortices are used to create the shaking motion and this is also where the Spanish company gets its name. Usually, structures can only be made to oscillate at exact frequencies cause by a specific speed of wind, but Vortex’s Bladeless turbines use magnets inside them that adjust the structures and keeps them oscillating in opposite directions, allowing them to shake the most and at the fastest speed no matter the wind speed.
The shaking and vibrating movements of the structures is converted into energy by an alternator at the base. This happens in a way that allows the energy created with the new turbines to be around 40% cheaper than the turbines with blades. Bladeless turbines are cheaper to manufacture as they don’t need large expensive blades and they have a simple design. This means that the costs incurred with creating the structures are around half that of a normal turbines in use today.
In addition, a large reduction in costs comes from the lack of high maintenance charges that the structures will incur. There are no moving parts or gears like in other turbines, so Vortex’s devices won’t need lubrication and will be about 80% cheaper to maintain over time.
Vortex has said that a new design allows for larger amounts of turbines to be placed into the same wind farms as the ‘wind wake’ is more narrow than with other designs. After testing in a wind tunnel, Vortex has found that it is actually beneficial to place one structure in front of another as the second benefits from vortices given off by the first.
They are also quieter as they avoid making any sound through wind disturbance. Noise is a big factor that goes into the planning of wind farms and causes many to object to them, so wind energy generators that cause little to no noise will give people less to dislike about wind farms. The current design of the turbines is like a huge white cigar or straw, with a large flat top and a tapered shape as the structures enter the ground. The design of the Vortex structures create a lower risk to the environment and to flying birds than traditional counterparts with blades.
Despite the advantages of the Bladeless turbines, Vortex says they create about 30% less electricity than normal turbines. However, as they can be placed closer together and more can be used at once in the same place, it is likely that the negatives will be evened out by the positives.
Vortex is planning to release a Mini model which will stand at 12.5 meters or 41ft high and will be available next year. This model is a 4kW unit and is designed for being used to power homes or creating small-scale wind farms. A larger industrial model called the Gran will be available two years later in 2016. This is a 1+MW model that can be used in large-scale wind farms to generate wind energy en masse.
Vortex has already attracted in the region of $1.1m from public and private funding in Europe. There are plans for a crowdsourcing campaign to launch in June to get the company closer to creating their first pre-commercial prototype.
While new wind generation designs continue to be created, Vortex Bladeless is definitely on the road to becoming one of the most promising.