Glen Lux, an engineer from Saskatoon, Canada, was recently recognized by NASA’s Tech Briefs magazine for his radical new VAWT design. Using a fraction of the materials of regular turbines and producing as much power, his model could make it far easier to get wind power where it needs to be.

The Design

The Lux turbine uses thin, curved blades, shaped like an egg beater. There are actually 6 blades on the turbine, twice as many as are found on most horizontal and vertical designs. It also uses a traction-based generator that rotates on the hub of the turbine. Conventional turbines often use a gear box generator, which costs more to make.

Image credit CBC News

The main benefit to the Lux design is the reduced production costs. The creator estimates that it will only cost around $0.04 per kw of power, making it just as cheap to make as standard coal generators. And due to the way they are shaped, the turbines can be placed close together, allowing more energy to be generated from a smaller area.

Another benefit is the ease of maintenance. The main components of the turbine are close to the ground, as opposed to the top of the tower. Since the materials are cheap, replacement parts can be ordered at a low cost.

The Award

Lux’s design is so efficient, it won first place in the Sustainable Technologies category of NASA’s Tech Brief awards. The model is definitely one of the front runners of turbine design – but right now, no one has funded it yet. Inventions can be amazing, but if they aren’t paired with an investor, no one will see them. That’s why you can’t purchase a Lux turbine right now, even if it would be cheap to produce.

Lux hopes that the attention from the award will draw in interested investors. You can check out more about the turbine’s design on the Lux Wind Power website.


To some people, electric cars can seem a little pointless. That electricity you’re using instead of gas is often produced by gas, coal, or another similar method. But what if you could charge your car on wind energy?

Driving Like the Wind

A similar turbine to the ones that will be installed at the park. Image credit Sun Sentinal

In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, powering up your car might not mean a trip to the gas station. By the end of the year, residents will be able to plug in their vehicles at a wind-powered charging station next to Mills Pond Park. The turbines used are a vertical model with intertwining blades, reaching as high as 55 feet in the air. The design is beautiful as well as functional, meaning it will actually add to the look of the park. And since the blades are vertical, they offer no risk to the park’s avian wildlife.

This isn’t the first charging station in the area, but it’s the first one powered by wind. The reason it’s next to a park is pretty simple: while you’re waiting for your car to charge up, you can take a walk, have a picnic, or even take advantage of the wind by flying a kite.

Technically, the turbines won’t directly be powering the charging station – they’ll be feeding into the park’s overall electrical system. This helps ensure that excess energy won’t get wasted, and that a backup supply will still let you charge your car, even if there’s been a shortage of wind. For Fort Lauderdale residents, it’s a win-win situation.

Combining Function and Appearance

Last week’s post discussed the importance (or unimportance) of the way a turbine looks. In urban settings, the design of a turbine can have a huge impact on the success of an installation. In the Fort Lauderdale case, the turbines are being installed in a public park – which means that the look needs to actively enhance the recreational area.

Vertical turbines are a great choice for this kind of installation, since they are safe for wildlife, quiet, and tend to look better in an urban setting. If Fort Lauderdale’s turbine-based charging system works out, there’s a good chance that we’ll start seeing turbines in many more parks in the future.

 

 


Much of the news about exciting developments in the world of wind energy comes from either the United States, Europe, or Asia. But even though these areas tend to hog the spotlight, wind energy remains just as useful all across the world.

Image credit Penn Energy

A Wind Farm in Uruguay

Earlier this week, the Suzlon Group successfully secured a contract for the first wind farm in Uruguay, a country located in South America. The project should prove 65 MW of power, and is expected to be completed by late 2014.

South America is a particularly great location for the implementation of wind energy, since it has large amounts of the resource. Uruguay’s landscape is composed of wide plains and rolling hills – the perfect area to place a wind farm.

Urugay is a first world country, but other parts of the continent aren’t nearly so developed. If this wind farm takes off, there’s a good chance that surrounding nations will follow suit, and start providing clean energy to their citizens.

In countries that don’t have a lot of oil or other sources that are generally used for energy, a wind farm can be a great way to speed up development and provide power to as many people as possible. In some cases, it’s actually easier to implement the use of wind energy if there isn’t an already existing system.

While the farm that the Suzlon Group isn’t big – it will only have around 30 turbines – it’s still an important step. The more wind farms there are, the easier it will be for wind energy to be accepted and used across the world.

 


Many of the offshore wind turbines we’ve mentioned so far have used a traditional, horizontal axis. However, vertical turbines also have their place on the water – and that place is pretty cool.

It Floats – but It’s Not a Boat

American Offshore Energy, a company focused on creating renewable energy for the United States, recently unveiled an interesting new design. By combining a sailboat mast with a bicycle wheel, they were able to create a stable, floating, vertical axis wind turbine.

Image credit PR Web

What’s interesting about this particular turbine is that it has no center shaft. The circular design is actually held up by the blade of the turbine itself, minimizing the amount of parts needed and keeping the overall weight down. The blades are made out of foils intended for sails; the material is lightweight, durable, and specially designed to catch the wind.

Part of the reason this design works so well is the way the blades are arranged. Each blade is positioned above a stabilizing float, just underneath the red ring you can see in the image. The floats themselves are connected to three anchor lines which reach down to the sea floor, keeping the turbine from sailing away.

This isn’t the first floating turbine we’ve discussed, but the minimalist design is certainly innovative. Sails have been harnessing wind energy and converting it into kinetic energy for thousands of years. This process is a little less direct, since the energy will be stored before it’s used, but it’s still a wonder that this idea hasn’t been used sooner.

One of the other interesting features of this design is the attractive look. Many of this issues with turbines involve ruined views. Aside from the fact that a fleet of these turbines would be far away from living areas, the sails themselves are by no means bad looking. They also offer little to no danger to passing birds; the structure is clearly visible, and there are no horizontal blades to cause an accident.

There’s no word yet on where this design will be used, but so far it looks like a very promising take on offshore wind farming.

 


There’s a reason you don’t see light bulbs hovering in the middle of nowhere. Anything electrical that isn’t sustaining itself off of battery power has to be plugged in. This means that street lights, telephone poles, and even billboards have to be connected to the electrical “grid.”

So what if you could take a billboard off that grid, and save electricity at the same time?

The Verdegy Billboard

Image credit Verdegey>/a>

Image credit Verdegey>/a>

The trickiest part of any marketing effort is proving that you’re actually as good at what you do as you say you are. In some cases, your reputation for customer service is enough. But sometimes, a small gimmick can actually make your point for you.

That’s the case with Verdegy’s new, completely off-the-grid billlboard. The company, which specializes in the use of green energy, decided to show off their potential by powering their billboard with two vertical turbines and a handful of solar panels.

Verdegy uses HI-VAWT technology. These small, vertical-access turbines are easy to use for projects that don’t require a mammoth turbine that could generate enough power for 500 homes. The billboard itself is fun, grabs attention, and is completely self-sustaining.

Thinking Small

Using turbines to power a billboard could save an immense amount of energy, and open up more possibilities for advertising and road signs. Imagine if you didn’t have to run an electrical wire to every important highway sign or light; you could illuminate dark mountain roads, or add lit road signs to areas where it is too dangerous or simply too expensive to create an electrical grid.

Large turbines can have a huge impact on the area they are used in. But even if you don’t live near a huge wind farm, you can still enjoy the benefits of sustainable energy. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to take a look at the many smaller uses of wind turbines, from individual projects to powering your home.

Got a small VAWT project you’d like to see us talk about? Drop us a line in the comments!


Image credit Clean Technica

Image credit Clean Technica

Wind turbines are supposed to be good for the environment. That’s the point, after all; by harnessing a natural, limitless resource, we can cut down on pollution and save the Earth’s forests for future generations. But despite the good intentions, there’s one unexpected side effect to the local ecosystem: the danger to birds.

Unexpected Collisions

Aside from the occasional airplane, birds are the undisputed masters of the skies. They fly unimpeded across long distances, travelling at fairly ridiculous speeds without worrying about traffic congestion or road blocks. Or at least, they did, until we decided to fill the sky with turbines.

The average turbine is about 140 feet high. For reference, that’s 14 standard basketball hoops stacked on top of each other, or a 10-14 story building. Each of these turbines has rotating blades, which can reach speeds of over 170 miles per hour. However, the scale of these turbines makes those blades look like they’re rotating fairly slow.

Now imagine you’re an eagle, flying through a wind farm. You see an opening, glide on through, only to have one of those blades clip your wing. Eagle, human, or elephant, anything going 170 mph is going to hurt, and cause a serious injury.

An estimated 570,000 birds are killed by turbines in the US each year, either by colliding head-on with a blade or simply getting blown off course. Some birds perch on the top of a turbine while the blades are still, and get to enjoy a deadly ride when that breeze pick up again.

Granted, collision injuries and deaths are nothing new to avians. Far more birds fall victim to an impact with a glass window in an office building. Still, this unintended impact on the environment is definitely something the industry is hoping to minimize.

Saving Birds Through Turbine Design

A surprisingly easy way to cut down on bird casualties is to switch to a vertical axis wind turbine. VAWTs are easier to avoid; imagine flying past a barber shop pole, versus flying around a giant fan. They are also far more difficult to perch on; even if a bird does decide to sit on the top, it isn’t in line of any whirring blades.

If that won’t work, you can try installing a sound system, much like those used by gardeners. Avian distress calls and unnatural noises will help birds vacate the area, and keep them away from the dangerous turbines. You can also find a way to make the turbines shiny; reflected light has a similar effect.

Another suggestion is to make the turbines more visible. An Energy Norway project dubbed INTACT is testing out the effect of brightly colored blades. White tends to blend in against clouds and the light blue sky. Black, bright green, or even red would be far easier for birds to register – although it might not be as appealing to the human eye. But for the sake of saving countless feathered lives, a few eyesores might be worth it.

 

 


Recently, the first prototype off-shore wind turbine in the US was launched off the coast of Maine. Off-shore wind energy holds a lot of promise – or at least, the companies participating in a recent ocean rights auction seem to think so. Deepwater Energy won development rights on a 165,000 acre piece of land for the sum of $3.8 million. That’s a hefty sum, but the company definitely thinks the price is worth it.

Offshore Wind Potential

Offshore farms are nothing new in the world of wind energy, but the US still doesn’t have one. The auctioned land, which is located off the coast of Rhode Island, is perfect for a wind farm; the steady breezes and lack of obstructions take care of any technical needs, while the distance from high-traffic areas takes care of the complaints that wind farms typically generate.

Of course, offshore projects in the US have been attempted before. Bluewater Wind, a project run by NRG energy, was put on an indefinite hold in 2012. Cape Wind is still in the financing stage, and doesn’t project that they’ll have the funding they need until 2015. Even the images of turbines on their site are just artists representation.

One large problem is actually constructing turbines out on the water. There are two main options: make the turbine float, or find a way to build it from the ocean floor. If you’re close to land, the second option works just fine; but this makes the idea of getting turbines away from residential areas a moot point.

The difficulty isn’t just in the technical aspects; after all, there are countless wind farms in Europe already. The main difficulty is finding investors willing to finance these expensive and potentially risky projects. If Deepwater Energy has the funding they need to create a complete wind farm, they’ll be ahead of the curve – in the United States, at least.

How Will the Land be Used?

Right now, Deepwater Energy has the rights to the land, but there’s a time limit. The company has 4 years to come up with a plan and set it in motion. Basically, they’ve got a rather expensive reservation. If they do something with it, they’ll get to keep the land and the profits from it. But if they fail to develop it, rights will likely be passed onto another hopeful company.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which ran the auction, will be holding another on September 4th. The goal is to encourage the development of clean energy; by creating competitive auctions and placing a time limit on the lease, companies are incentive to complete their research as quickly and effectively as possible. With any luck, we’ll be seeing offshore turbines within the next 5 years, although it may take longer.

If the project is successful, the United States will finally catch up to Europe in the use of cleaner and cheaper energy. The land purchased by Deepwater Energy could power over a million homes, if used correctly. Keep an eye on the coasts; they’ll be dotted with turbines in no time.


It appears that Cleanfield Energy, a Canadian vertical wind turbine manufacturer is running into difficulty. They have triggered an event of default, which basically means the bank is coming after them for money.

According to the news release, Cleanfield’s board voted to either wind-up or liquidate the company.

“Furthermore, because of Cleanfield’s lack of positive cash flows, its inability to secure additional working capital and weakened demand for the Company’s products, the Company is unable to properly operate.”

It’s unfortunate to see another VAWT manufacturer’s operations stop turning, after the well-known failure of Helix Wind several years ago. The energy business is cutthroat and if there’s no customers, there’s no money. Perhaps another wind turbine manufacturer will step in and buy the technology.

Here’s a look at one of Cleanfield’s installations at Durham College in Ontario, Canada:

 


Clean Green Energy LLC is a renewable energy company based in Michigan that has developed a vertical axis wind turbine, the Winde20. CGE has just received financing to continue this development of the Winde20 VAWT and begin installations in 2013.

CGE intends to use this money to finance Purchase Power Agreements (PPA) for their wind turbine customers. A purchase power agreement allows the customer to avoid the capital costs of installation by signing up to a long-term agreement on fixed-rate energy pricing. PPA’s have been common in the solar industry, but are a relatively new concept in the wind power sector.

CGE winde20The Winde20 vertical axis wind turbine stands 105 ft tall and provides 65 kW of power. Designed for an urban environment, the CGE VAWT is well suited for businesses, schools and government buildings. One interesting aspect of the Winde20 is that the blades can fold up in high wind conditions to reduce damage to the turbine.

The Winde20 is just part of Clean Green Energy’s power solutions. CGE also installs solar PV systems, as well as energy efficient lighting upgrades.


In the news today, Urban Green Energy has partnered with Pfister Energy, a provider of renewable energy solutions. As a distributor and renewable energy integrator, Pfister will now have access to Urban Green Energy’s line of small vertical axis wind turbines.

Pfister Energy

The small VAWTs designed by UGE fit nicely in Pfister’s line-up of energy products, as their strength is in “stackable solutions” that combine wind with other renewable energy sources such as solar.

“These smaller wind turbines represent a bright spot in the renewable energy sector, opening wind up to a whole new range of customers,” said Wayne Pfisterer president of Pfister Energy. “This partnership adds a new dimension to our business and enhances the energy solutions we offer our customers.”

Pfister is based in Hawthorne, NJ and will be working with UGE in New Jersey, New Hampshire, Florida and Maryland.