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Think of wind, and you think of movement, right? But what if we could get energy from the wind without the usual spinning blades we're used to seeing?
That's what's happening with some of the latest wind energy technologies. They're changing our old ideas of how wind power works, capturing the wind's energy in new ways that don't always need movement.
As we embrace these innovations, it's also important to understand the limitations of traditional methods. While wind turbines produce clean, renewable energy, they are not devoid of drawbacks. For instance, wind power generation through turbines is not an economically prudent choice to produce energy for places that are not windy enough.
And since wind turbines are often installed in remote locations, setting up the infrastructure might be a problem, especially creating transmission lines to carry electricity from wind farms to homes in urban areas.
Moreover, large turbines are known for producing noise and disrupting the visual aesthetics of an area. Besides, these installations can also affect local wildlife.
All these difficulties can now be solved by not moving away from the core concept, which is using wind for clean power generation. The answer lies in the motionless wind turbines, as they can harness the energy without creating the sound or other difficulties that come with it.
Motionless Wind Energy Generation
Generating motionless wind is about removing dependence from a centralized, resource-heavy grid and relying on a combination of distributed energy resources (DER) one can place on residential and commercial structure rooftops. While these energy resources employ both solar and wind power, wind has the advantage of being available 24/7, unlike sunrays.
Meanwhile, a motionless wind generator captures wind power through the use of vertically mounted airfoils or wings and not large-sized turbine blades. When the wind flows past the wings, a low-pressure area is created between them. This low pressure creates a suction, and a specially-shaped tower between the airfoils feeds this suction. This feed goes past a small turbine placed at the unit’s base and generates electricity as it spins, without involving large spinning or moving parts.
There are many advantages to this process. It reduces noise pollution, helps protect wildlife, uses space efficiently, and requires low maintenance.
Although the history of traditional wind power, as we know it today, dates back many years, motionless wind energy generation adds significant value to our sustainability efforts. And although it is new, that does not take away the promises and potential it has already shown.
According to Architecture 2030, 50% of global carbon emissions stems from buildings and the built environment. Of this, 27% comes from building operations, while 20% comes from building materials, construction, and other construction industry usage. Therefore, it is essential that we use building power solutions more efficiently, and motionless wind generation is a step towards that.
Many commercial enterprises have taken up the task of turning motionless wind into something feasible. We will discuss these companies and look at the technology they deploy in their solutions.
Companies with Transformative Solutions in Motionless Wind Generation
Vortex characterizes its wind power solution by multiple adjectives. The power is bladeless, safer, quieter, and greener.
Altogether, the vision of Vortex Bladeless is to offer a new wind alternative from consumer-level big wind parks. And in achieving its vision, the company relies on different physics than regular wind power. The result is distinct and full of opportunities.
Motionless Windless Generation Technology: The Vortex Bladeless Way
The vortex device resembles a cylindrical tower. If we start from below, the lowermost part is fixed and known as the base. The part above the base is the Core, which holds a carbon rod inside. Above the core, there is the alternator tuning system. Above them all is the cylindrical mast that oscillates freely perpendicular to the wind direction.
When wind passes around these cylindrical structures, it creates pressure vortexes. The frequency of these vortexes is dependent on the wind speed. With the structures having a similar natural resonating frequency, they begin to oscillate and capture the wind energy.
After capturing the energy comes the phase of converting it. For conversion, Vortex Bladeless uses the technology of a traditional alternator, where the device witnesses an interaction between coils and magnetic fields.
Electricity is generated from electromagnetic induction. The magnets also serve their purpose as a Tuning System where the elasticity constant of the mast is modified, widening the wind speed range in which oscillations happen.
Although Vortex’s technology is still under development, once it becomes a full-fledged reality, it will have several advantages compared to a regular turbine of the same size. Vortex bladeless will be gearless and oilless, requiring no braking and easier to fabricate. It will always stay oriented on a similar foundation. It will require less space and enjoy a greater life span.
Vortex Bladeless: A Brief Profile
Founded by David Suriol and Raul Martin Yunta, Vortex Bladeless is based out of Madrid, Spain. It is an early-stage startup. According to publicly available data, the company raised US$120,000 in pre-seed funding from Techstars in 2021.
For those unfamiliar with Techstar, it positions itself as the most active pre-seed investor firm globally, with a US$105 billion all-time accelerator portfolio market cap.
Another company that has transformative bladeless wind-energy solutions to offer is Aeromine Technologies. These bladeless systems are installed on commercial property rooftops to draw onsite renewable energy.
Aeromine leverages the principles of aerodynamics. It uses building-integrated airfoil-based wind generators with zero moving parts. When the wind passes through these airfoils, a low-pressure area is created between them.
The hollow center body of the structure guides the pressure down to the manifold and the internal propeller. At the lowermost part of the structure, low pressure pulls air through the intake to flow past the propeller and generate power before the air jet exits the center body and mixes with the free wind.
The principle of Aeromine pivots on using no external parts and getting rid of vibrations. Instead, it uses the airfoils to capture and amplify a building or commercial structure’s airflow. The solution stays ahead of solar power by requiring one-tenth of the roof space used by solar panels.
The Aeromine solution is silent and stationary. It is capable of generating energy at any time under all weather conditions. The system is a typical combination of 20-40 units on a building’s edge, where the combination faces the predominant wind direction.
As claimed by the company, its system is close to 50% more productive than other renewable energy alternatives. If combined with rooftop solar solutions, the bladeless wind energy generation system can meet a building’s onsite energy needs fully.
Aeromine Technologies: A Brief Profile
Founded in 2020 by Martin Manniche, Aeromine Technologies has its headquarters in the Greater Houston Area, United States. On October 31st, 2023, the company received a US$1.1 million grant from the Danish Energy Agency.
In January 2023, AEC Angels made an endorsement investment in Aeromine technologies. The first investment of Aeromine Technologies came from Mass Challenge as non-equity assistance.
Why Motionless Wind Generation is Seen As a Credible Solution for the Future?
The loudest validation of motionless or bladeless wind energy generation as a route to create clean, renewable energy comes from its investors.
Aeromine’s innovative rooftop wind energy system that converts a building’s wind flow into renewable energy got a US$1.1 million grant from the Danish Energy Agency, as we saw. The grant was awarded after checking the solution’s viability across nine parameters, including its commercialization potential and the ability to meet climate-policy targets.
However, there is much to be done to make it foolproof. The Danish Technical University (DTU) will partner with Aeromine to conduct performance tests of the technology on a range of building types and varying wind conditions.
According to Professor Christian Bak, the Head of the Airfoil and Rotor Design Section at the Technical University of Denmark, the university will look into flow modeling for different building types and measure the performance of the solution “to derive improved algorithms to estimate the energy production and the optimal rooftop placement.” This will lead to further finetuning and more efficient application of the system.
Since the solution is deployable on the roofs of apartments, offices, warehouses, port terminals, hospitals, retail centers, and any such building with a flat roof, placement optimization knowledge will lead to increased adaptability.
Aeromine admits that there is already significant demand for its solutions in the market. In fact, according to Aeromine’s co-founder Martin Manniche, it is already receiving a “huge amount of interest in the technology and ramping up productions to meet demands.”
Manniche also believes that their solution will make wind energy a ‘great fit for local businesses,’ which hasn’t been the case yet.
Similar advantages and more could also be found for the solutions of Vortex Bladeless. For instance, its solution of motionless wind generation is cheaper in manufacturing and maintenance.
For those having doubts about the design efficiency of Vortex, the makers claim that their Vortex Mini – the 13-meter (42 feet), 4 KW model – can capture up to 40% of the wind’s power during ideal conditions.
Although it is 30% less efficient than conventional wind turbines, one can compensate for this shortcoming by putting double the number of Vortex turbines into the same space as a propeller turbine.
Meeting Clean Energy Targets
Achieving the targets for Net Zero Emissions by 2050 would depend to a great extent on the successful leveraging of wind and solar power.
On the wind energy front, while the turbines have become bigger with taller hub heights and larger rotor diameters, annual wind capacity additions until 2030 need to increase significantly to meet the targets.
Meeting the Net Zero Emissions 2050 target, which envisages approximately 7,400 TWh of wind electricity generation in 2030, the average annual generation growth rate needs to increase to about 17%. To achieve this, it would require increasing annual capacity additions from about 75 GW in 2022 to 350 GW in 2030.
The wind power capacity additions have so far been largely limited to China, a significant player in this field. The country is presently responsible for half of the global wind power capacity additions in 2022.
The International Energy Agency has also noted deterred growth in wind power equipment manufacturing. To improve the situation, the agency has recommended an acceleration in the pace. It has also observed innovations in the sector to be primarily revolving around productivity increase and lowering of costs.
In such a mixed scenario, motionless wind energy generation can add fuel to the growth. With its limited space requirements and easy-to-maintain capabilities, it can spread fast across geographies where extended stretches of land are a constraint.
More on the positive side, wind power investments witnessed an increase in 2022 by 20%, recovering from a slowdown in 2021. It has also become part of all major renewable power collaboration programs with significant backing from the private sector as well.
The investments won by Aeromine and Vortex, especially from the scientific and tech-enthusiast community, show that motionless wind energy has its feet on solid foundations. More finetuning and necessary calibrations would make it a perfect choice to spread the reach of clean, renewable energy faster.