Rows of spinning wind turbines make for seriously Instagrammable photo ops when driving down the highway. More importantly, they produce seriously clean energy just from the whirl of their blades.
Turning readily available wind into electricity was wonderfully innovative, however the breakthroughs in the field of wind energy continue to inspire awe. One Spanish company is removing the blades from turbines, taking advantage of an aerodynamic effect known as vorticity, which produces a pattern of spinning vortices. There are several benefits to this new technology, including cost (it’s about 50 percent less expensive to manufacture than traditional spinning turbines), it’s silent (ask anyone who lives near a wind farm about the noise!) and it’s safer for birds that must fear for their lives when flying near those giant pinwheels.
Other manufacturers are going up in the air – literally. The Makani Airborne Wind Turbine is a flying wind turbine that operates at altitudes of up to 1,000 feet, moving through the atmosphere to access more powerful and consistent wind resources. It can also be deployed in offshore waters. Both of these opportunities would lead to tremendous increases in wind energy generation. Another company is sending helium-filled, inflatable shells into the atmosphere. This allows the turbine to access stronger and more consistent winds than those on the ground. These balloon-like structures can reduce energy costs by up to 65 percent and they can be installed in a snap.
But what about situations at ground level when the wind isn’t blowing? A machine called the Wind Harvester generates electricity from both high and low wind speeds. The creators of the Wind Harvester hope to one day have their apparatuses producing clean, renewable energy on farms and potentially in residences that aim to be carbon neutral.
Many of these products are in the development stages awaiting funding, however any steps to improve renewable, alternative energy sources are moves in the right direction for a cleaner, greener planet.
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