Wind power is now among the fastest-growing electricity sources in the world. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), wind turbines could supply 35% of the world’s electricity by 2050, achieving electricity costs below 0.03 US$ per kilowatt-hour.
Conventional wind turbines use a three-blade rotor mounted on a mast, but alternative designs are possible and many have been tested successfully. This article will describe some ingenious wind turbine designs, which demonstrate there are many ways to harness the power of the wind.
Photo Credit Untrakdrover
The surface of the sea does not have the obstacles found in land-based locations, providing better conditions to generate electricity with wind turbines. However, this brings the challenge of installing wind turbines with underwater foundations. Once the depth reaches a range of 60-80 meters, the concept is no longer feasible.
An innovative solution for marine wind turbines is using floating bases like those of oil platforms. This way, the turbine can generate electricity without using a mast that reaches all the way down to the seabed. These floaters are equipped with anchors and dynamic stabilization thrusters, offering a reliable support.
Photo Credit Altaeros Energies
Wind speeds become faster and more consistent as altitude increases. However, taller turbines need longer masts, which are more expensive and difficult to install.An innovative concept is installing a wind turbine in a flying structure, and replacing the mast with a much less expensive tether. The structure uses a helium-filled balloon, similar to a blimp, with an opening in the middle for the wind turbine. The tether that anchors the floating turbine also contains conductors to gather the electricity produced. The blimp can also be equipped with weather instruments, to act as both a wind turbine and a weather station.
An MIT startup called Altaeros Energies conducted an 18-month test with a flying wind turbine at an altitude of 1,000 feet. Wind speeds were up to eight times higher than those experienced by conventional wind turbines.
Photo Credit Bob Yirka , Phys.org
A wind tunnel turbine uses a large funnel-shaped structure to gather moving air. Since this accelerates the wind, the turbine can generate electricity even with a mild breeze. Wind tunnel turbines are also safer for birds, since the blades are inside a tunnel and not spinning freely in the air.
Photo Credit ChristianT
Conventional wind turbines have a horizontal axis, which means the gearbox and generator must be mounted on top of a mast. With a vertical axis wind turbine (VAWT), this key equipment can be installed closer to the ground, and the turbine shaft faces upward.VAWTs can generate electricity with the wind blowing from any direction, while conventional ones must be pointed towards the wind. They are also better suited for gusts and turbulence, while horizontal wind turbines do not operate well under these conditions. Finally, VAWTs have compact blades that spin at lower speeds than those of horizontal turbines, making them less threatening for birds.
Photo Credit Beverly A. Beckert
A vortex wind turbine does not have any spinning blades. Instead, it interacts with the air to induce vortexes, causing an oscillatory movement. Compared with conventional turbines, vortex wind turbines are better suited for small-scale use and distributed power generation.
Vortex wind turbines are safer for birds, since they use an oscillating mast instead of spinning blades. They also have simpler maintenance needs, having less moving parts than conventional wind turbines.
Please note that Windlogger does not endorse or comment on the qualities of any of the machines.