Solar Chimney and Other Wind Power News

This collection of wind power news items features stories about a major investment by a public utility in wind technology and an experimental plant called a solar chimney.

Wind Power News - sun and cloud illustration

A solar chimney uses sun power to create a column of warm air, which then drives a turbine.

Illustration by Fotolia/andreapetrlik

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As the following items attest, wind power news stories these days document a mix of experimentation, technical innovation, and a steady march toward wider commercial adoption.


Solar Chimney

"A wind turbine that works best when there's no wind at all." That's how engineers describe the prototype 40-kilowatt, 200-meter-tall solar chimney now producing power in Manzanares, Spain. The air benneath a two-meter-high, 40,000-square-meter transparent plastic skirt surrounding the column is heated by the sun to 20°C above ambient temperature and is sucked by convection past a gigantic inverted funnel at the base of the smokestack-like chimney and into the tube at speeds as high as 60 MPH. A four-bladed rotor, installed a few meters up inside the wind tunnel, then churns out current for a regional utility ... and the warmed area beneath the wide cover is used for growing vegetables!

Flutter Generator

And here's yet another innovative wind machine. Inventor Donald E. Lipfert has received a patent on a rooftop-mounted domestic power plant that has no props or rotating turbines whatsoever. Instead, it relies on a property called "aeroelastic flutter": wind is directed through a housing at a flexible membrane, and the flapping material actuates a generator. The experimental device is said to be capable of producing as much current as — and may someday be marketed for only one-fourth the cost — of a "conventional" windplant of the same size.

Windworks' New Owner

Wisconsin Power and Light has paid $2.5 million for a majority interest in Windworks, the pioneering windplant and inverter manufacturer that was founded by Hans Meyer (with the sponsorship and encouragement of R. Buckminster Fuller) way back in 1970. A strange partnership? Perhaps. But Windworks products can now be marketed more extensively, and we're also heartened by this statement from the head of WP & L's Strategic Planning department: "We're very excited about this, not only because Windworks has a good earnings potential but because, ultimately, we see society as moving toward renewable, sustainable sources of energy."