A way forward for rooftop micro-wind?
Bladeless wind turbine saves wildlife and costs
Critics of wildlife-unfriendly wind turbines have quietened down since the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds installed one on its flagship visitor centre and applauded the 175-piece London Array (see 'Bird spotters convert to wind power'). Now, a new technical development could just silence them altogether.
Solar Aero Research, New Hampshire, has patented a bladeless wind turbine with a mesh-covered air inlet, which poses no danger to bats and birds. Nor will it disrupt radar used by air traffic controllers and the military.
The Fuller Wind Turbine, developed over four years with £215,000 of private investment, harnesses the viscosity of air passing over the rims of thin discs to generate energy. Designed with urban rooftops in mind, the entire housing swivels almost silently as it tracks the wind – the only visible motion.
“This enclosed turbine should produce significant power at half the life-cycle cost of the windmills,” says Howard Fuller, its inventor. The savings are due to the elimination of up-tower maintenance – to rebalance the blades of conventional wind turbines, for example.
A proof of concept model exists and a prototype is expected to generate 10kW, with production units ranging from 5 to 100kW. An insignificant amount, perhaps, compared to a 3MW windmill, but – argues Fuller – power generation can be scaled up by grouping arrays more densely, with blade clearance no longer a concern.
Nick Medic of Renewable UK (formerly the British Wind Energy Association) welcomed the innovation: “The fact that people are coming up with such a variety of solutions testifies to the vibrancy and viability of the wind energy market, and shows that there is a lot of potential”.
Whether the Fuller can boost micro-wind for the home remains to be seen. As Dale Vince of Ecotricity remarks, it’s “a huge challenge – nobody seems to have cracked it yet”.
Solar Aero is seeking tax-deductible grants to develop the technology further. Manufacture will be licensed to franchisees, and Fuller expects “many thousands” to be made.
– Andrew Purvis
19 July 2010, Green Futures forum
by Jeff Kart, Bay City, Michigan
Granted, this doesn't look like much. This wind turbine, developed by Solar Aero Research of Greenville, New Hampshire, doesn't have blades. It doesn't look like a wind turbine, with majestic white arms spinning in the blue sky. Maybe that's a little biased of a statement. But wind turbines can often spark "Not In My Backyard" complaints about noise, along with concerns over bird kills (and aesthetics). It's unclear if this one will be aesthetically pleasing to your neighbors. They probably won't hear it though, and it can't chop up birds or bats, as far as I can tell. Did I mention it was inspired by Nikola Tesla's steam turbine? Solar Aero has patented the Fuller Wind Turbine, based on a patent issued to Tesla in 1913, according to Alternative Energy News and other sources. Officials with Solar Aero, a "nonprofit alternative energy research organization, dedicated to energy independence and development of renewable resources," say the patent was modified for wind generation applications. The model is completely enclosed, with a screened inlet and outlet.
The turbine's only rotating part is a turbine-driveshaft-alternator assembly, which cuts down on maintenance. The company says the Fuller can deliver power at a cost comparable to coal-fired power plants, or about 5 cents per kilowatt hour, GizMag says. Pricing and other details haven't been announced yet. The Fuller is still in development. I wonder how this model could/would compete against traditional systems, whether they be vertical or horizontal. It's sure to spark opinions and maybe critics, based on the old but improved design.