Wind Energy: The Power of Change
The oil crisis of the 1970s had a significant impact on the world economy and the environment and forced leaders to seek alternative sources of energy. In particular, the crisis prompted countries to look at renewable energy sources, including wind energy. Today, wind energy is a major contributor to the energy mix of many countries, with China leading in the number of wind turbines and the pace of their construction. However, while wind energy is a clean and renewable source of power, experts raise concerns about the impact of wind turbines on the environment. This article explores the development and challenges of wind energy and the potential of innovative bladeless wind turbines.
The Emergence of Wind Energy
The oil embargo imposed by the five OPEC Arab member states and Iran against the countries that supported Israel in the 1973 Yom Kippur War forced the world to look at renewable energy sources, particularly wind energy, in a new way. Two years after the start of the oil crisis in the United States, the first wind farm was launched, providing electricity to 4,000 homes. 15 years later, in 1990, 46 wind farms were operating in the United States, and today more than 1.5 thousand wind turbines power 38 million homes across America.
China Takes the Lead
Despite the impressive successes of the Americans in this area, so far, no one can compare with China, neither in the number of wind energy facilities nor in the pace of their construction. Within 15 years, the Chinese have managed to build hundreds of wind farms that now produce twice as much electricity as generated in the United States. The largest wind power complex in the world, Gunsu, has been operating in China since 2009, with plans to increase its capacity to 20 gigawatts, almost two and a half times higher than that of the largest nuclear power plant in the world in the Japanese city of Fukushima.
Challenges of Wind Turbines
While wind energy is considered a clean and renewable source of power, experts raise concerns about the impact of wind turbines on the environment. The fields of wind turbines cause some concern among experts from various fields who argue that the moving blades create significant mechanical and aerodynamic noise in the immediate vicinity of large installations, threaten migratory birds and bats, and interfere with the reception of radio signals. Repairing large elements of wind turbines is also a challenge. Moreover, the slowing down of air masses caused by wind turbines can impact the climate.
The Emergence of Bladeless Wind Turbines
The disadvantages of wind turbines can be eliminated by using a new type of wind turbine that works without blades. The first concept of a bladeless wind turbine was developed in 2013 by a research group at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands in cooperation with the Metcanu architectural company. The development team designed the UConn Electrostatic Wind Energy Converter, which has no moving mechanical parts. Due to the absence of blades, this design is devoid of the main disadvantages of classic wind turbines. It does not create noise, does not break, does not cast shadows, and does not threaten birds and bats. The UConn wind turbine resembles a large tennis racket with a short handle. Inside the frame is a grid with horizontal insulated tubes, each of which contains several electrodes from a mesh tube negative electrode. The system sprinkles positively charged water particles into the air. Falling into wind streams, the droplets are carried towards the positive mesh electrode, which captures positive charges. This creates a potential difference, which in turn generates electricity. The amount of energy received depends on the number of water droplets, the charge of the droplets, the wind speed, and the strength of the electric field.
Innovation in Wind Energy: The Windwheel Project
The concept of the UConn wind turbine quickly found continuation in the Netherlands. In 2015, a 174 meter wind wheel multi-functional complex in the form of two rings of glass and steel project was presented in Rotterdam. According to the architect’s idea, the outer ring is rotating and consists of 40 roller coaster cabins, and the inner ring is the body of the building with apartments, a hotel, a panoramic restaurant, and a sky lobby. At the same time, the space inside the rings can act as a bladeless wind generator created using the UConn technology. For the Netherlands, which is famous all over the world for its mills and strong architectural background, the Windwheel project is a landmark. This building has every chance to become the most innovative windmill in the world. The wind generator located in the very center of the building will in no way disturb the peace of the residents and guests of the hotel.
Innovation in Wind Energy: Vortex Bladeless
Researchers continue to explore innovative alternative approaches to generating electricity from wind energy. One such approach is the Vortex Bladeless “Sky-Braider” turbine developed by the Vortex Bladeless company in Spain. The device is a resonant wind turbine that causes vortex vibration. The Sky-Braider turbine consists of an outer cylinder that is securely fixed at the base and an upper part of the cylinder that freely sways from side to side in the wind, like an antenna. When the wind passes through the pillar, around it, according to the laws of aerodynamics, air vortices are formed. Circular vortex flows, and as soon as their frequency is compared with the frequency of the cylinder, the installation begins to interact with the wind. A generator at the base of the cylinder captures these mechanical vibrations and converts them into electrical energy. The structure is built using carbon and fiberglass reinforced polymers, as well as the strong and lightweight materials used in usual wind turbine blades. The mass geometry is designed to provide maximum performance at average wind speeds. The compactness of such an installation allows for the installation of entire fields of wind generators at a minimum distance from each other, which is impossible in the case of classic wind turbines with blades.
Over the past half-century, wind power has made a rapid leap forward, catching up and already surpassing nuclear power. The success of China, Europe, and the United States in this industry shows that the global goal of moving to renewable energy sources is getting closer. In the search for new ways to use wind energy, researchers need to find completely different approaches, such as bladeless wind turbines. Innovative bladeless wind turbines have the potential to deliver clean and renewable electricity while minimizing the impact on the environment. The wind of change is just around the corner.