May 20, 2015 by

bladeless wind energy

Wired put together a very interesting piece on the renewable energy company Vortex. They are now field testing bladeless wind energy turbines.

Instead of capturing energy via the circular motion of a propeller, the Vortex takes advantage of what’s known as vorticity, an aerodynamic effect that produces a pattern of spinning vortices. Vorticity has long been considered the enemy of architects and engineers, who actively try to design their way around these whirlpools of wind. And for good reason: With enough wind, vorticity can lead to an oscillating motion in structures, which, in some cases, like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, can cause their eventual collapse

Using the energy created by the oscillation in structures has been covered on Daily Kos long before I came here. As with previous iterations of minimal moving parts and gearless wind turbines, the Vortex version may offer up a variety of advances to wind technology that are not possible with today’s wind turbines.

Its makers boast the fact that there are no gears, bolts, or mechanically moving parts, which they say makes the Vortex cheaper to manufacture and maintain. The founders claim their Vortex Mini, which stands at around 41 feet tall, can capture up to 40 percent of the wind’s power during ideal conditions (this is when the wind is blowing at around 26 miles per hour). Based on field testing, the Mini ultimately captures 30 percent less than conventional wind turbines, but that shortcoming is compensated by the fact that you can put double the Vortex turbines into the same space as a propeller turbine.The Vortex team says there are some clear advantages to their model: It’s less expensive to manufacture, totally silent, and safer for birds since there are no blades to fly into. Vortex Bladeless says its turbine would cost around 51 percent less than a traditional turbine whose major costs come from the blades and support system. Plus, Suriol says, it’s pretty cool-looking. “It looks like asparagus,” he says. “It’s much more natural.”

While I don’t know if the aesthetics of giant asparagus-like wind turbines is the biggest selling point, the idea of more energy and cheaper maintenance is very promising. This is still in its early stages and the company hopes to have smaller working versions up and running by the end of the year.

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