Fossil-free energy Wind power from the clothesline – Airloom is reinventing wind energy
The wings move like in a carousel
© Airloom / PR
The startup Airloom has presented a fundamentally new design of a small wind power plant. In terms of performance, it should be much cheaper than conventional wind turbines and use far less material to build.
The prototype is reminiscent of an oval-stretched clothesline from which wings are hung. In fact, the wings run on a suspension, which in turn is mounted on 25 meter high masts. A small prototype stands in a field near the small town of Pine Bluffs. As soon as the wind blows, the blades rotate around the track and generate energy in this way Electricity. “Instead of spinning in circles, this blade flies around the track, generating mechanical force, just like a wind turbine blade drives a gearbox in the middle,” said CEO Neal Rickner.
Wind near the ground
A special feature of the location is the constant wind near the ground. As a rule, the wind blows much stronger and more regularly at heights than at ground level. That’s why small turbines in windmill design for domestic supply only have a niche existence. Locations where the generator is surrounded by trees or buildings are not suitable. For most houses this is not a solution. But there are also locations where the wind blows at sufficient strength near the ground or at roof level. Such or similar systems could be used here.
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The advantage of the concept is that less and simpler material is required – the construction should only cost a tenth of the cost of a conventional turbine. Setting it up is much easier because there is no need to pour a huge foundation. Airloom envisions building these facilities over fields. Wind turbines require a large distance from each other, which is not necessary with the carousel design. Airloom therefore believes it can harvest more wind power from the same area than with a conventional system. 2.5 megawatts are to be achieved by a system with 25 meter high stands and ten meter long blades. The wings run in the track and are connected by a cable that moves in the oval. The electricity is then generated through this cable. This definitely has structural advantages. A normal wind turbine essentially gains the energy at the tips of the blades; because of the great length, extremely high loads occur here. Airloom’s wings are much smaller, they capture the wind across the entire surface. Unlike large turbine blades, simple materials can be used that do not cause fatigue during operation.
The wings move a cable in the oval, this drives the generators.
© Airloom / PR
Simply put: the blades of “windmill” turbines have a lot in common with the propellers of airplanes, while the blades of Airloom have more in common with the sails of boats. At the “tips” of the oval, the wing position is folded so that the wings generate energy on the way back and forth.
It is unclear how the permanently installed oval can adapt to changing wind directions. And even if the model is technically proven, the limitation remains that there are only a few places where there is enough wind near the ground to make it worth using. But it could be a niche solution there. However, there are other, less exotic solutions for power near the ground. For example, “wild fences” in which thousands of small turbines rotate.
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Money from Bill Gates
Aeromine Technologies has introduced another variant that is suitable for roofs in windy regions. The highlight here is that the wind is not caught by the wings. It is collected by a large static funnel, which increases the flow speed by exploiting the Venturi effect and then drives a small turbine.
The curious Airloom facility cannot be described as a pure spinning mill. The seed funding of $4 million comes from Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund. “For decades, the wind industry has reduced the cost of energy production by scaling ever larger turbines,” says Carmichael Roberts of Breakthrough Energy Ventures. “While this has been extremely successful in reducing overall costs, the approach faces challenges in both siting and material costs. Airloom’s unique approach can solve both problems and open up new market opportunities for wind energy.” The company believes the design can reduce the cost of wind energy to a third of its current cost.
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