Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Five Weird-Ass Wind Turbines

Written by Hank Green

We're starting to get used to wind turbines...not just the idea of getting a significant portion of our energy from the breeze, but also to their form on the horizon. But while the traditional tri-blade has its advantages, there are those who would see it replaced.

Though we've entered the realm of rapid growth, the innovation phase is far from over, so here are a few of the more radical designs for wind-capturing devices out there. The huge, the odd, and the ingenious.

The MagTurbine is the largest concept for a wind turbine that has ever come across our editorial desk. By using permanent magnets to eliminate all friction, the MagTurbine can theoretically be as huge as it needs to be. In fact, the optimal size, apparently, has a base of roughly 100 acres. Yes, it's a wind turbine the size of a small town...but it could conceivably produce enough power (1 GW) to light a medium-sized city.

Significantly less huge, but still huge (and a lot more feasible) is the Grimshaw Aerogenerator. Aside from needing someone with a degree in fluid dynamics to figure out how exactly this gigantic TV antenna is supposed to capture wind power, it's pretty exciting. The idea is to keep the number of installations down by creating larger turbines. This design by Grimshaw Architecture might be rated as high as 9 megawatts, about two times the power output of today's largest turbines.

Getting smaller, but staying just as weird, we have the Flo-Design, shrouded turbine. Resembling a jet engine, Flo-Design says that their turbine creates far less turbulence than traditional turbines, can capture significantly more of the wind, be spaced closer together in wind farms, and can be deconstructed to fit on one truck. The biggest disadvantage is that no one has ever seen a working prototype outside of this awesome 3D animation.

We've seen our fair share of building-integrated wind turbines, but this one takes the cake. By filling in a space between each level with a scoop that will capture the wind, the designers of this rotating tower (currently under construction in Dubai) say that the tower will actually be able to power itself. EcoGeek remains skeptical about the claims, but it's certainly one of the weirdest turbines I've yet seen.

Last on the list for today is the Magenn Blimp Turbine. We've seen our fair share of tether based kite turbines, and while Magenn's blimp might not be the weirdest, it's certainly the closest to actual implementation, with a test blimp currently in operation and plans to start gathering power from a blimp farm next year. Each blimp is lighter than air and conducts the generated electricity to the ground via an electrical cable that also tether's the blimp to the ground. They flight at between 90 m and 200 m, allowing them to get at higher winds without the need for all that excess steel and carbon fiber.

To be honest, when we were going through our archives, I was stunned at how many weird-ass wind turbines I found, so I think this is likely going to be just the first part of a two, possibly three part series. So if you want to see some more weird ass wind turbines, keep your eyes on EcoGeek or sign up for our RSS feed.

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