When placed in a close proximity, traditional wind turbines are known to interfere with each other. Although the designs have gone through major improvements over the years, the lower efficiency is caused by the wind blocks and vortices produced due to the close proximity.
But the biophysicist from CalTech, John Dabiri, might just have found the solution to the problem. By observing the movement of schools of fish, he established that if the shape of small vertical-axis wind turbine blades resembles fish fins, when placed close to each other, they will complement each other and harness wind energy much more efficiently.
Dabiri, who is also a winner of the MacArthur Foundation “genius grant”, explains that vertical axis wind turbines are much more efficient when grouped together, because they do not interrupt the airflow. They are much smaller than traditional windmills. Similarly to the movement of school of fish, instead of reducing the power coefficient, these wind turbines actually feed off each other, resulting in higher efficiency.
In addition, a hundred vertical-axis wind turbines can occupy as much space as one full-size turbine in a traditional farm. Because they are only 30 feet tall, one 3.5 kilowatt turbine costs only $3,500. Dabiri is convinced that the new vertical-axis turbines could be combined with traditional turbines in large hybrid wind farms in order to save space, while boosting energy production.