By: Derek Markham
Small-scale wind generators, especially vertical designs, are the renewable energy pariahs, and the clean energy concept that many cleantech enthusiasts love to hate.
But that hasn’t stopped anyone from continuing to develop new versions of wind generators that break with the conventional windmill design, and the team behind the Vortex Bladeless design believes their creation is a leap forward in wind energy, and is a “more efficient, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly way to produce energy.”
I’ve previously covered other designs of bladeless wind turbines here on TreeHugger, with the comments mostly resembling that of Eeyore saying, “It’ll never work,” but like many innovations intended for established industries, that’s par for the course. That’s not to say that there aren’t any clean energy startups (or startups in general) that mislead the public about the claims of their products, or that there aren’t any scams or hoaxes in the green energy field, but rather that it’s easy to take a quick look and say something’s a scam, even if you’re only talking about a company that overpromises and underdelivers on its marketing claims.
The Vortex wind generator represents a fairly radical break with conventional wind turbine design, in that it has no spinning blades (or any moving parts to wear out at all), and looks like nothing more than a giant straw that oscillates in the wind. It works not by spinning in the wind, but by taking advantage of a phenomenon called vorticity, or the Kármán vortex street, which is a “repeating pattern of swirling vortices.”
Here’s a quick video overview of the device:
The company claims that its design can be reduce manufacturing costs by 53%, cut maintenance costs by 80%, and would represent a 40% reduction in both the carbon footprint and generation costs, when compared to conventional bladed wind turbines. The Vortex is also said to be quieter (than standard wind turbines), and to present a much lower risk to birds and the local environment.
According to Vortex, the devices can be used to generate more power in less space, because not only is the wind wake narrower than a traditional turbine, but installing them closer together can actually be beneficial to the technology, based on wind tunnel testing.
“We tested in a wind tunnel to put one Vortex just in front of another and the second one actually benefits from the vortices given off by the first structure.” – David Suriol, Vortex
The first model that Vortex will introduce is the Mini, a 4 kW unit that stands 12.5 meters in height, which is intended for small-scale and residential wind energy applications. Also in the works is a Gran version, a 1+ MW model that is designed for large-scale wind generation for utilities and other similar applications.
According to an interview in Renewable Energy Magazine, the company has already raised over 1 million Euros from both private and public funds in Europe, and is expected to roll out its pre-commercial prototype within the year.
The company’s website states that it will be launching a crowdfunding campaign in June of this year, although no other details about the goal of the campaign are listed on the site yet.