Those of us who love the idea that wind-generated power could help reduce some of the world's fossil-fuels addiction are conflicted by stories of possible health side effects (headaches and worse) as well as the negative impact that some wind farms have had on bats and birds. Not to mention the noise and the aesthetics.
But what if you could make a wind turbine with no blades at all?
Yes, I know I just wrote about the world's longest blade which is fascinating in and of itself, well I just read this item over at TreeHugger detailing a scheme by a company called Saphon Energy to redesign the turbine layout to eliminate blades. Not only will this help with some of the noise concerns and danger to wildlife, but it will help turbines be more efficient, according to the company.
On its Web site, Saphon says the concept was inspired by sailboat designs. The company writes:
"The blades are replaced by a sail-shaped body, while both hub and gearbox are removed. Instead of spinning the blades' rotor, the wind is being harnessed by a sail, which follows a non-rotational back and forth motion. Such movement follows a knot path and allows the conversion of the majority of the kinetic energy into mechanical energy (using pistons). The same is then converted to a hydraulic pressure that could either be stored (in hydraulic accumulator) or instantly converted to electricity via a hydraulic motor and a generator. Thanks to the aerodynamic shape of the Saphonian, the drag force becomes the driving force of the system while the lift force becomes almost nil."
The design would allow turbines to overcome Betz' law, which limits how much kinetic energy a wind turbine can capture. Right now, most turbines can capture about 30 percent to 40 percent, but Saphon Energy believes its design will capture at least twice that amount, resulting in a more efficient turbine.
So, let's be clear. This is a theory that the company has prototyped (now in its second generation). But the company needs a manufacturing partner to take things farther. We've got at least two years to wait before this technology is maybe, possibly a reality.
The video below details more about the theory behind the Zero Blade Technology. Now, we'll need to keep an eye on the company to see if its idea works: