From huge kites to sea-bound flywheels and roof-top installations to tree-like art creations, we've seen many different approaches to capturing energy from the wind. One design, though, reigns supreme - the tri-blade turbine tower. It's not exactly a trouble-free life at the top and there are those who do not look upon these monsters favorably, most often complaining about the noise and the not so picturesque view. With support from Nottingham Trent University's Future Factory project, Heath Evdemon is currently building a new type of wind turbine called the Wind Harvester that's claimed to be virtually silent, doesn't need to loom high over the landscape and can operate in a variety of wind conditions.
Evdemon first came up with the idea for the Wind Harvester over six years ago but has only recently developed the idea further. The Wind Harvester has horizontal airfoil blades that need only measure one meter (3.28 feet) across and can operate at half a meter (1.64 feet) off the ground on hillsides or outcrops, or can be placed atop domestic, commercial and agricultural buildings.
"The Wind Harvester can be used in locations where it is difficult to install current wind turbine farms," said project supporter Dr Amin Al-Habaibeh from Nottingham Trent University's School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment.
The system is based on reciprocating motion - as the wind catches a horizontal airfoil (like the ones you might find on aircraft), it's raised until it reaches a certain point, then the angle of the blade alters and it's forced downward, and the process repeats. Unlike the more familiar wind turbine designs where the tip of the blade moves at a different speed to a more central point, all the points on the airfoils of the Wind Harvester would move at the same velocity. This is said to make the unit capable of generating power at low wind speed, as well as continuing through to the kind of higher wind speeds that may result in other systems ceasing operation to prevent damage.
The system is scalable up to blades of about 15 meters (49 feet), and its components can be broken down into bite-sized pieces for ease of installation without the need for heavy machinery.
The frame, rotating base, swinging arms, airfoils, generator and the outer housing of the system are currently being upscaled into a fully working prototype model thanks to funding from Future Factory, the Peak District National Park's Sustainable Development Fund and the Live & Work Rural program.
"We're looking for potential sites within the Peak District National Park at the moment and then we'll turn our attention to industry, but it's a product which could one day be rolled out to farms working towards becoming carbon neutral and homeowners looking for a cheap and sustainable source of power," says Evdemon.
At the time of writing, there's no word on exactly how efficient this new device is expected to be, we'll doubtless have to wait for real world data to be collected at the full-size prototyping stage.