Vortex: The Bladeless Wind Turbine
We’ve come to associate the wind energy sector with tall wind turbines with long, gently rotating blades. But that sight could change, if a new technology – called the Vortex Bladeless – proves itself to be better than the conventional design.
What is interesting about the new entrant is that it’s a wind turbine with no blades. So that begs the question – how does it generate electricity?
Quite simply, by oscillations. Or in engineering speak, through aeroelastic coupling. What happens is this: The Vortex bladeless wind turbine is essentially a metal pole that is fixed at one end, and free at the other. When installed (as shown in the picture), it resembles a giant straw sticking out of the ground.
The pole opposes wind flow and thereby creates wind vortices. These vortices force the pole to oscillate, and its mechanical energy is captured at its base and amplified through magnetic coupling – or electromagnetic induction – to generate electrical energy.
Bladeless Wind Turbine: A Paradigm Shift?
What’s really interesting is that – because its design is so simple – the bladeless wind turbine is about 50% cheaper to manufacture than a conventional wind turbine of the same capacity. Therefore, even though it is claimed to generate about 30% less energy (under the same wind conditions), energy generation using this turbine is more economical.
As an additional benefit, it does not have any moving parts (such as gearboxes and ball bearings) and hence requires no lubrication.
Of course, one key concern is that, since we are talking about oscillations, there is the possibility of metal fatigue creeping into the pole at its base. High wind speeds – in the range of 15 to 20 m/s – may also induce excessive oscillations that may destabilise the system.
However, these are design issues that could, potentially, be overcome. What remains to be seen is that whether this new design proves itself to be technically and commercially viable enough to revolutionize the wind energy sector.