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.
“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!
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.”