Wednesday, August 15, 2007

When it works, it blows...

Wind-generated turbine technology has come a long way since the days of yore (sorry, I'm fascinated with the word "yore").

The last two decades have seen numerous advances in tech design, increased turbine size and manufacturing improvements...all of which have reduced the cost of wind power during the last 20 years to just 3 to 7 cents (on average) per kilowatt hour for utility-scale project sites. Turbines have even moved to the sea, generating energy from the waves and tides.

While that information sounds nifty (sorry about "nifty," too), those turbines have nothing on their vertical axis brethren. Take the windmill pictured above, flip it on its back, wrap two blades around each other, and let it rip. Something just got a whole lot sexier.

"Small wind" is the new big oil (only it doesn't use its powers for evil).

So why is the spiral blade design effective, given its smaller stature and relative efficiency?

First and foremost, they're like Cheney on a pheasant hunt...they don't need to aim at anything! With the rotor shaft running vertically and the spiral blades seizing wind form every direction, they can be mounted virtually anywhere. Check out the numerous applications offered by companies like Windside.

Pictured below: The closely-related Savonius Wind Turbine.

Still not sexy enough for you? Try the old-tech Darrieus wind turbine. Patented in 1927, these "giromills" have been around for quite a while, but continue to thrive in areas where the wind is consistently strong. The problem is, they basically need to be push started to get them going.

[Click on pic for larger]

Still not sexy enough? You little wind energy pervert.

Try award-winning hybrid Quietrevolution on for size.

Founded in 2000 by Robert Webb and Richard Cochrane, Quietrevolution is making the world take notice. They're taking a century old technology and morphing its DNA into an efficient, productive little energy machine.

So why vertical? You sure do ask a lot of questions.

Vertical axis wind technology has numerous advantages. Point-free directional capabilities not included, these units have their generators and gearboxes at ground-level, allowing acrophobic service staff to rest easy. And due to their compact design, models like the Quietrevolution QR5 can also be placed close to buildings and on top of towers.

Cost? The £25,000 sticker takes only 15 years to pay for itself.

Too much for your rooftop? Take it to tax dollars.

Why not line the center dividers of the freeway with thousands of these guys? Use the gas we guzzle to power our own greedy selves?

You know what it's like to almost be blown off the freeway by an 18 wheeler, so you know the power is there.

Still not enough? Time for craziness.

Take the whole vertical axis turbine concept and stick it on magnets (thanks, China).

Yep...magnets. Why not.

Maglev, a loudly lauded company with a now-defunct website (largely in part due to heavy Digging), is trying take friction out of the equation by borrowing from the high-speed train industry. The turbines are now floating.

Similar claims from other companies are heavily saturated in "could be" sponge water, but the concept itself makes want to open up my Hover Rink Rollerama.

Househacker has the best analysis on the claims I've seen thus far . Check out their updated analysis for a whole bunch of numbers/statistic talk I'll never understand.