Most people when talking about wind power, may have in mind giant three-bladed wind turbines, standing out in the open on poles 200 feet high, and blades reaching higher still. Some claim these green machines are eye-sores, that may limit their placement.
Another limiting factor is their sheer size, meaning that they can’t be placed as close to the users, such as towns or even urban areas. Finally, transporting these huge parts requires semi-trucks, and sometimes the building of roads to remote places for installation, which adds an environmental footprint to wind-turbine construction.
A new company, Windstrument, took the time to study shapes commonly found in nature, and decided to use an unconventional, at least for wind turbines, shape found in many plants and animals, the conical helicoid.
The shape is, according to the inventor, “the most energy efficient, energy generative and durable pattern in existence.” By utilizing a differently-shaped blade, a number of benefits were realized.
The turbine can be made smaller, only 50 inches swept diameter, which makes them more portable. Weighing in at only 12 pounds fully assembled, they can be mounted almost anywhere there is a utility pole. If more power is required, more turbines can be added to the same pole, quickly and easily raising the power output on a small footprint.
The new design also lets them operate at slower speeds, as low as 2 mph wind speed, and still generate electricity. Extensive testing rates the turbine at 1.2 kW, with a max recorded output of 3.2 kW at 171 mph. Because the blades take up about 80% of the swept area, efficiency is somewhere around 90% wind-energy-captured. Another benefit of the conical helicoid design is the elimination of vibration and backwash, which would keep birds from “getting sucked in” by the turbulence created.
Windstrument designed their new turbines to be as compact and efficient as possible, and they certainly seem to have succeeded. With the ability to manufacture thousands of turbines a month, and their compact size, its easy to imagine that these newly-designed turbines could find their way unobtrusively into neighborhoods everywhere, quietly and safely generating electricity from clean wind energy.