Wind power is a great source of clean energy during an era that humanity aims at decarbonization. It is indisputable that people should focus on alternative sources of power since 1) fossil fuels are harmful to the environment and 2) they are rapidly depleted. Nevertheless, the means to generate clean energy have certain drawbacks and create environmental issues.
When it comes to wind power, the current design of turbines features large blades that rotate and convert kinetic to electrical energy. Those blades may threaten the surrounding wildlife (mostly birds) and can also impact the local landscape. For this reason, more and more wind farms are established offshore. In addition, the rotation of the blades can cause shifts in atmospheric flows that change their moisture and heat and eventually impacting the natural processes.
Vortex Bladeless, a start-up company established in Spain, has introduced a new type of turbine that needs no blades to operate. The 3-meter cylindrical turbine includes a vertical vibrator that acts and an energy generator. The technology is based on vortex shedding, a flow that is generated when air passes by a solid body. The cylinder oscillates due to the airflows and the mechanical power is converted to electrical power.
The turbine consists of a rigid body that is anchored to the ground with a section of it being free to vibrate. It is constructed using carbon fiber and reinforced polymer, materials that enable less damping during oscillation. The model is designed to operate optimally in moderate wind velocities and due to its geometry, it can adapt to wind direction shifts. The greater amount of power generation occurs when the wind's vortices frequency matches the natural frequency of the rigid body, hence, the amplitude of oscillation is maximized. The maximum allowed oscillation is 2,7 degrees and the limitation is set to reduce the shear deformation of the material which could lead to shear failure.
The inventors suggest that, due to the turbine small size, it can be implemented in residential areas where common wind farms cannot be established. The company suggests that the generators have more similar characteristics and should be compared to solar panels than to conventional wild turbines. Moreover, they can function complementary to solar panels that operate during the day since wind velocities are increased during the night. Currently, the size of the developed model can generate a relatively low amount of power, but the company aims at creating larger models (up to 140 meters) reaching 1MW capacity.
Despite the development of the model is in a preliminary phase, the inventors are confident that it will also be cost-effective and competitive with respect to other sources of clean energy.
The concept has been named as one of the 10 most stunning start-ups by Equinor, Norway’s state energy company.
A video with a field test conducted for a bladeless turbine can be found below.