Salient White Elephant

August 7, 2009

Summary of the Best Ideas on the Salient White Elephant

Since there are currently 127 posts on the Salient White Elephant, I thought it might be a good idea to devote this post to summarizing the best of these ideas.

Big Wind or Small Wind?

A worldwide network of inexpensive desktop computers ultimately proved to be far more powerful than the super computer. This lesson should not be lost on wind enthusiasts. However, the Salient White Elephant has proposed intriguing ideas both for very large wind turbines as well as for small wind turbines that may be deployed in large numbers. So why not experiment with both, and let the market sort the winners from the losers?

Idea #1) Circular Wind Dam

Circular Wind Dam

Advantage Over Flow Concentrators and Diffusers

Flow Concentrator and Diffuser

Increasing the outer diameter of a shroud in order to squeeze more wind through a turbine rotor causes the wind to develop greater tendency to veer around the entire structure – shroud, rotor, and all. For this reason, the laws of fluid mechanics tell us that you can squash only a limited amount of “extra wind” through the small opening that contains the rotor. But the wind dam is not subject to this limitation. Why not? Because the purpose of its flow manipulating structure is not to “contain the wind”, but rather to force it to do what it already wants to do – to veer around the entire flow manipulating structure! This effect can be increased indefinitely by building larger and larger dams. In this case, having nowhere else to go, the wind is obliged to flow around the entire structure, regardless of how big it is!

Another obvious advantage of the wind dam is that it is stationary and attached to the earth. A concentrator or diffuser must be suspended high in the air, and must be yawed with the machine. The shroud is large, poorly supported, and vulnerable to mechanical failure.

Here’s a link to the original Circular Wind Dam post. (I wonder if an offshore version of this idea would be possible in shallow water. In this case, the underwater part produces hydro power and the above water part produces wind power. One nice thing about combining the hydro and wind is that it would probably increase the net capacity factor. Also, it seems like it might be possible to design the underwater part to harvest both tidal and wave power.)

Idea #2) High Capacity Factor Wind Turbine

A very large wind turbine with a flow accelerating component (like the Circular Wind Dam just described) is designed to have a very low cut-in wind speed. The turbine is also designed to be very inexpensive through the removal of weight, leaving it perhaps even flimsy. Structural integrity is achieved by providing the machine with ample means for shedding the energy of higher speed winds, and for allowing storm winds to pass through the structure virtually unimpeded. (Perhaps a wall has slats or portholes that can open and close.)

Now because of the flow amplifying nature of the machine, it should be able to produce a significant amount of power at low wind speeds. This feature is remarkable in that it directly and significantly addresses the most glaring deficiency of wind as an energy source – it’s low capacity factor. I discussed increased capacity factor in two earlier posts entitled Capacity Factor and Very High Capacity Factor Wind Turbine.

Idea #3) Small Wind Business Model

This company (Small Wind Inc.) installs small wind turbines into people’s back yards, or perhaps onto the roofs of their homes or small businesses. However, Small Wind Inc. uses exactly the same business model as does the type of company that owns, maintains, and operates utility scale wind farms. That is, Small Wind Inc. erects, maintains, and repairs all of its wind turbines, and it sells the electricity generated by these small wind turbines to the power company. In exchange for the use of the home owner’s property, roof top, electrical wiring, wind resources, and so on, the homeowner receives a monthly check from Small Wind Inc.

Advantages of the Small Wind Business Model

  • Because Small Wind Inc. has tens of thousands of turbines in the field, it is in an excellent position to negotiate contracts with the power company. For example, it may have the negotiating firepower to be financially rewarded for the benefits of producing power at or near the point of consumption (instead of wasting energy by transmitting it over long distances through high voltage transmission lines).
  • Convincing a homeowner to put a big chunk of her life savings into an investment that is difficult to understand is a hard sell. Convincing a homeowner to climb an 80 foot tower with a pipe wrench clinched in her teeth to repair a broken wind machine is even more difficult. But it’s easy to sell someone on the idea of getting a monthly check when their only contribution is to avoid hitting base of the tower with a lawnmower!
  • Small wind machines are often considered more attractive than large wind farms. This allows small machines to be deployed in very large numbers. Coupled with the increased efficiency of generating power near the point of consumption, the small wind business model is good energy policy. The distributed nature of small wind also means that only small fractions of capacity will be offline at any given time for maintenance or repair.
  • Small Wind Inc. has experts in turbine siting. Only those homes and businesses that happen to have a good wind resource are selected as customers.
  • If 4 out of 10 homes in a small community have good wind resources, then the whole community can run on green power. Simply install 10 wind turbines on the 4 properties that have good wind resources.
  • Because Small Wind Inc.’s technicians are experts, cost of maintenance and repair of the wind machines is low.
  • Since Small Wind Inc.’s turbines may be deployed in large numbers, costs are lowered through purchasing parts and services in bulk, and economies of scale are realized in a variety of predictable and unpredictable ways.
  • Because power is produced at the point of consumption, transformers are not required to step voltage up to transmission line levels. This delivers significant cost savings.
  • Financing costs are low due to the expertise Small Wind Inc. has in this area, economies of scale, and the size, scrutability, and stability Small Wind Inc.

Idea #4) Walmart Rooftop Wind Turbine

Walmart Rooftop Wind Turbine

Though not shown in the diagram above, slats are positioned in the gap between the edge of the flat top of the Walmart building (dotted line) and the bottom of the dome roof. (This is the gap through which the ram air flows in under the dome roof.) The slats can open and close to allow or block this flow. With the wind direction depicted above, all of the slats on the left hand side of the diagram would be open in order to allow the ram air to enter from the left and concentrate beneath the dome, and all of the slats on the right hand side would be closed to prevent its escape. The original post describing this idea, Venturi Dome Baseball Stadium, has a diagram that shows how the slats work. Another post, Rooftop Wind Turbine, described a rooftop turbine for a typical residence.

Idea #5) Another Walmart Rooftop Wind Turbine

Aerial View Walmart Rooftop Wind Turbine

Simply put a Circular Wind Dam onto the roof of a Walmart store. In order to reduce turbulence, the store is first provided with a dome-shaped roof, and the Circular Wind Dam is mounted on top of the dome. The dome would look a little like the dome in the Walmart rooftop turbine described previously, but it would not have a hole and a turbine rotor in its center. Also, there would be no slats or gap between the edges of the flat top of the store and the underside of the dome.

Idea #6) VAWT Forest With OmniDirectional Flow Accelerators

Savonius Forest With OmniDirectional Flow Accelerators

Here’s the original post: VAWT Forest With OmniDirectional Flow Accelerators.

Idea #7) Highly Scalable Horizontal Axis Wind Turbine

In the diagrams below, the orange and dark blue lines represent guy wires. Comments are provided that explain which load each guy wire supports.

Downwind View, Highly Scalable Wind Turbine

Aerial View, Highly Scalable Wind TurbineThe Highly Scalable Horizontal Axis Wind Turbine is remarkable in that guy wires assist in supporting all of the large tower loads that are carried by the machine. This allows a great deal of weight and cost to be removed from the design. The original post explains in detail, and includes some very cool tilt-down versions.

Idea #8) Automatic Wind Turbine Blade Washer

Automatic Wind Turbine Blade Washer

If you don’t believe this embarrassingly simple device will work, then read the original post. You’ll be amazed that none of us ever thought of this idea until now.

Idea #9) Semi-Direct Drive Linear Turbine With Yawing Oblong Track

This one is too complicated to summarize, so I’ll just post a link to the original post that described it. But first, a word of advice – don’t be fooled by the apparent complexity of the diagrams. It isn’t as complicated as it first appears, and offers some tremendous performance advantages: Semi-Direct Drive Linear Turbine With Yawing Oblong Track.

More Good Ideas

Here’s a link to a page that is full of links to the best posts on the Salient White Elephant. That page has more links than are included the current post. Or if you’re really a glutton for punishment, you could just read every single one of the 127 Salient White Elephant posts!

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June 27, 2009

High Mechanical Efficiency Centrifugally Stable Darrieus Turbine

High Mechanical Efficiency Centrifugally Stable Darrieus Turbine

May 19, 2009

I Dream of Genie Wind Dam

I Dream of Genie Wind Dam Construction - 1

I Dream of Genie Wind Dam Construction - 2

jeannie4

I Dream of Genie Wind Dam Construction - 3

Genie

I Dream of Genie Wind Dam Construction - 4

Now take a bunch of the structures depicted in the last step and connect them together with arcs to form a giant circular wind dam:

I Dream of Genie Wind Dam

Genie

Drive System

Notice that since a given “Totem Pole” of HAWT rotors are stacked one on top of another, they can share a common drive chain. This common drive chain ultimately drives a sprocket that drives the generator shaft. The generator is located in a small compartment on the ground, beneath its “Totem pole” of turbine rotors.

Does This Turbine Require a Yawing System?

I can think of two variations of the I Dream of Genie Wind Dam as regards the yaw drive. The first version would always have all of the rotors turning, regardless of which direction the wind is blowing in. This would be easier to explain if I could draw a nicer 3D model, but I’m not much of an artist, so bear with me here. All rotors can rotate simultaneously because some of the high speed wind moving around the outside of the dam seeks the “smallest radial path”, meaning it will eventually force its way through a rotor to the inside of the wind dam. The wind outside the dam that does not manage to find its way into this smaller radial space will instead shoot off the bowed out end of one of the wall sections (much like the wind shoots off the trailing edge of an airfoil). This will create a low pressure region in the smaller radial locations that “suddenly appear” next to this high speed air at the moment it shoots off that bowed out edge of the wall. This low pressure sucks low speed high pressure air from the inside of the dam through the rotor that is near the high speed air that is shooting off the bowed out end of the wall.

In the variation just described, the rotors do indeed need to assume one of two yaw angles, each separated by 180 degrees. (Alternatively, the blades may have variable pitch so that they can accommodate the flow of wind in either direction through the rotor.)

The other variation would have doors that can block the “hole” that is occupied by the rotor. In this variation, all the rotors that pass wind from the outside of the dam to the inside of the dam (given wind direction) have their doors opened, while the doors of all the other rotors are closed, rendering those rotors inoperable. Or you could do it the other way around, allowing air to be sucked out of the inside of the wind dam, but not to be forced from the outside of the wind dam to the inside. In this case a yaw system is not required. This is so because the door will always be closed when wind has a tendency to flow through the accompanying rotor in the “wrong direction”.

Third World Variation

Think of how easy it would be to build a low cost variation of this machine for the developing world! Imagine that instead of building a circular dam, we’ll build one that is polygonal, with an approximately circular shape. Maybe the circle has 10 or 12 sides. So we put concrete columns or telephone poles up in the shape of the polygon. We have one set of telephone poles for the “smaller radius” polygon, and another set for the “larger radius” polygon. Now we string cable between the poles. The following diagram shows just one side of the polygon, and uses blue to represent the cables connecting the “larger radius” polygon, and green to represent the cables connecting the “smaller radius” polygon:

I Dream of Genie Wind Dam, Third World Variation, 1

Now take some of that beautiful multi-colored fabric like they have in India and wrap it back and forth around the cables to imitate the I Dream of Genie Channels:

I Dream of Genie Wind Dam, Third World Variation, 2

When wind flows around sharp edges, it tends to create turbulence. To avoid this tendency, we might like to use something with a larger diameter than cables. How about we use cheap PVC pipe? Then we can string the cables through the inside of the PVC pipe. This way the cables can provide a great deal of strength and stiffness to the structure, yet the cables will have no adverse affect on the aerodynamics.

For More Information on Wind Dams

Genie
For further information related to this idea, see the earlier Salient White Elephant post: Circular Wind Dam.

May 12, 2009

Practical Artificial Pressure Differential Wind Turbine

Explanation of Artificial Pressure Differential Turbine 1

Explanation of Artificial Pressure Differential Turbine 2

In this way we have brought the low pressure on the downwind side of the parachute to the top of the tower.

Now, in your mind’s eye, eliminate the low pressure tube, and make the parachute whole again. Now attach a high pressure tube to the vertex of the parachute:

Explanation of Artificial Pressure Differential Turbine 3

Now we have techniques for bringing the high pressure of the upwind side of the parachute back to the tower, and for bringing the low pressure of the downwind side of the parachute back to the tower. Next, we build both the high pressure and low pressure extending tubes into the parachute at the same time. The low pressure tube has the smaller diameter, and it connects to the hole in the vertex of the parachute which has the same diameter. The diameter of the high pressure tube is larger than the diameter of the low pressure tube, and it encircles the low pressure tube so that a cross-section of the two tubes makes them look like concentric circles.

The next step is to transmit the high and low pressures to the bottom of the tower using the same technique. The tower is actually two towers – an inner smaller diameter low pressure tube with an outer larger diameter high pressure tube surrounding it so that a cross-section of the two makes them look like concentric circles. The high pressure and low pressure regions are connected at the bottom of the tower and, as expected, a HAWT rotor (with a vertical axis) is positioned between the two. The rotor, gearbox, and generator are at all at ground level.

The only thing I haven’t explained is how the low pressure and high pressure tubes make a right angle turn at the top of the tower. I was planning to draw some pictures of this, but I don’t think it’s really necessary. There are probably a million ways to do this. I will just note here that the parachute part automatically seeks the downwind position, and so it doesn’t require a yaw system. The right angle joint can be yawed, or it can simply be a cylindrical piece with vents positioned radially about its center. The vents have doors in them that can open and close to simulate yawing, though few moving parts would actually be required. (To illustrate, imagine an aerial view of this machine. Suppose the high and low pressure tubes approach the tower near the 9 o’clock position. Then the vents in the cylindrical piece at the top of the tower that are at positions 8 o’clock, 8:30, 9:00, 9:30, and 10 o’clock would all be open, while all of the other vents would be closed tight and aerodynamically sealed.)

The tower supports little weight, and it can be fitted with vents to let storm winds pass through unimpeded. This means the tower can be very light in weight, very inexpensive (relative to a typical HAWT tower), and it can have a large diameter if necessary. The parachute and the fabric part of the low pressure and high pressure tubes may have similar vents so that they also create little drag during storm winds. Maybe the parachute and fabric vents could even be somehow rolled up and stored inside the tower during storm winds.

Finally, note that the tower could be incredibly high. This is true because it supports little weight, has little overturning moment in storm winds, and can accomodate multi-level guy wires that can attach to the tower at any elevation, including at the very top of the tower!

Artificial Pressure Differential Turbine

Yawing Variation

Now we might imagine a long horizontal tube extending from the top of the tower. The supporting cords that tether the parachute are attached to the end of the horizontal tube that is far from the top of the tower. This way, the “vertex” (downwindmost end) of the parachute is right at the top of the tower, and the low and high pressure regions may easily be connected to the vertical (tower) low and high pressure concentric tubes. The horizontal tube yaws to align with the wind.

There are many other variations like this. Maybe we just build something that looks like a giant radio telescope dish, and attach its vertex to the top of the tower. This might not be so ridiculous if the parabolic dish has slats that automatically open when the pressure differential between the upwind and downwind sides of the slats exceeds a safe value.

Jet Stream Ram Air Wind Turbine

In earlier posts I have mentioned that a turbine capable of harvesting the energy of jet streams would probably be better for newspaper headlines than for an economical approach to wind electricity, since it would probably be cheaper and more effective to build several smaller low altitude turbines than a single monster that could tap into the jet streams. But it got me to realize that there are no jet stream turbines on the Salient White Elephant. This is Salient, to be sure, but is it White Elephant? Certainly not! And already I can hear not a little hubbub from the Canadian Parliament behind me patting their tables and gushing heah heah! So let’s just round things out with a couple of jet stream turbines before tensions run too high and one of the hairs on the head of the Right Honourable Stephen Harper springs noticeably out of place, shall we?

Jet Stream Ram Air Wind Turbine

For some reason, I’m usually biased toward using suction rather than high pressure in my flow accelerator ideas. But one advantage of using ram air pressure in the machine proposed here is that it would keep the long fabric tube inflated. This is very significant of course, since one of the biggest challenges in designing an airborne turbine is keeping weight to a minimum. Using high pressure might eliminate any rib-like supporting structure that would otherwise be required for the tube. I guess you’d have to stabilize the fabric tube by attaching it to the tethering cables at various intervals, but who knows… maybe somebody can design a way around this requirement.

Triple Tethered Variation

Jet Stream Ram Air Wind Turbine, Triple Tethered Variation

Multiple Blimps Variation

There are many variations of the ideas proposed here, but let me discuss one in particular. This idea emphasizes a technique I’d like to use to bring these pie-in-the-sky airborne turbines a little closer to feasible. Imagine eight blimps. Each is tethered by at least three cables to keep the blimps from moving around too much. An aerial view would reveal that the blimps are situated at the vertices of a gigantic octagon. It is important to note that the “diameter” of the octagon is far from insignificant. I can’t give you a number… maybe two or three football fields? Each blimp has a parachute and a high pressure tube, just as described above. All of the high pressure tubes converge at the center of the octagon, where they connect to a single larger high pressure tube that takes the jet stream wind down to the ground.

What’s so great about this variation? Well… let me first list what I believe may be the salient objectives of airborne turbine design:

  • If possible, no moving parts in the air.
  • If possible, no fiberglass, electrical cable, gearboxes, drive shafts, or electrical generators in the air. (Ever notice how the components of a wind turbine that have to do with mechanical and electrical power are about the most dense (heaviest) things known to engineering kind?!)
  • MINIMIZE WEIGHT, MINIMIZE WEIGHT, MINIMIZE WEIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!

So the idea here is that instead of having eight different tubes, we attempt to minimize weight by having a single large tube carry wind from the jet stream to the ground. This is desirable because the really long distance is from the jet stream to the ground. Once at the center of the jet stream octagon, it isn’t much further to the blimps. So could we use this trick to reduce the overall weight of the machine?

Well, whether this trick will work or not… I think you see my point. What is needed is a kind of linear programming style optimization that minimizes weight of fabric per kilowatt of capacity.

Can We Really Reach the Jet Stream?

No. The jet streams are like 30 to 40 thousand feet off the ground. (The cruising altitude of jet airplanes!) So we can’t reach the jet stream with the design proposed in this post. But we can certainly reach a higher altitude than today’s state of the art wind turbines! If you want to see a more practical configuration that uses the principles described in this post, check out the Practical Artificial Pressure Differential Wind Turbine.

May 10, 2009

SkyScraper with H-Rotors

This is a very simple idea. Imagine a skyscraper that looks round in an aerial view. Now just put a bunch of disks around the outside walls of the building… (say) one disk every 6 stories or something like that. Now near the outer perimeters of these disks, you cut a slot as described in many of the other posts on this blog. (See for example 20 Megawatt VAWT.) The ends of the airfoils engage these slots. The blades go around the building with each level rotating with the same polarity as its upstairs and downstairs neighbors, or else with adjacent levels rotating with opposite polarity to double the speed difference between the generator rotor and the generator stator:

SkyScraper with H-Rotors

Mechanical energy may be converted into electrical energy in any of several ways. Once again, all of these conversion methods have been described multiple times on this blog, so I won’t repeat them here. I’ll just give a short list of the possibilities:

  • Generator windings are embedded into the slots. A permanent magent is attached to the ends of the blades and the motion of the blades forces these magnets past the windings.
  • Cables are attached to the middle of each rotor blade. These cables are attached to a smaller diameter cable. The diameter of the smaller diameter cable is just large enough to around the building without hitting it. The smaller cable drives the generator. All cables should be designed to carry only the power producing components of the airfoil loads. The larger (non-power producing) loads are carried by the disks that support the blades tips.
  • The slots that engage the blade tips are provided with a great many small wheels inside. Airfoil motion imparts spin to these wheels. All wheels are mechanically linked so that they all rotate at the same rpm. The rotational motion of the wheels (or of their mechanical linkage) drives a generator.

One question is whether blades that are rotating and producing power would be a visual distraction to the people inside the building. I honestly don’t know what the answer to this question would be. Because the building is high, and because the building itself acts as a flow accelerator, you can imagine that the blades might be traveling at a very high velocity indeed. I have no idea what the velocity would be, but let’s say they’re going 200+ miles per hour. Could you even see a blade moving at that speed? Anyway, if this turns out to be a problem, maybe one should explore the opposite approach – a great many blades having a slow, gentle movement.

Direct Drive Counter-Rotating Cat’s Eye Variation

In this variation, each level (each set of adjacent supporting disk-like structures) is provided with two sets of blades. Half rotate clockwise, and the other half rotate counterclockwise. (These blades may or may not be designed to imitate the behavior of the Cat’s Eye Darrieus Rotor.) The ends of all of the blades rotating with one polarity are attached to permanent magnets, while the ends of all the blades rotating with the other polarity are attached to windings. As two blades that rotate with opposite polarity pass by each other, their magnets and coils pass close to each other in a manner similar to what would be witnessed if you could look inside of an electric generator. The magnets and coils are attached to the parts of the ends of the airfoils that are hidden inside the slot, and thus create minimum drag and turbulence. The mechanical tolerances that must be maintained to minimize the air gap that the flux must traverse are acheivable also because these components live within the rigid and tightly controlled confines of the blade guiding slot.

Geodesic Dome Turbine

Start with a Geodesic Dome:

Geodesic DomeNow Cut a hole in the top, and cover the hole with a shroud that can yaw in order to keep its opening pointing upwind. Also add vents near the lower part of the dome can than be either opened or closed:

Geodesic Dome TurbineThe variation depiced above has air flowing into the hole at the top of the dome and out of the vents below. I’m not sure this is the best arrangement. The alternative would be to have air flowing into the lower vents and out of the hole in the top. In this variation, the shroud over the top hole in the diagram would be yawed (rotated) 180 degrees, and (I’m guessing) the left two vents in the diagram would be open, while the other vents would be closed. I guess one of these ideas is probably aerodynamically superior to the other, but I don’t know which is which. It’s worth noting that the real low pressure should be at the top of the dome, since this is where the wind has been accelerated the most. Seems like it might make sense then to let the wind flow in to the lower vents (where pressure is naturally higher), and out through the hole in the top. I don’t know much about the theory of fluid flow, so I’ll leave the rest to those of you who have the academic background to model and solve a problem like this.

Before ending this post, however, I’d like to point out an aspect of this idea that is particularly intriquing. Since you can have lots and lots of vents, but only one hole in the top of the dome, it stands to reason that it should be easy to provide the dome with many square feet worth of vents, given the area of the hole at the top of the dome. This means that the velocity of wind flowing through the vents may be caused to vary by only a small amount relative to the velocity of the wind outside the dome. For this reason, it would seem that the vast part of the lower part of the dome could be made to be quite comfortable for people, and this means the dome can have alternative uses. For example, the dome could house a giant botanical garden for the public to enjoy. If you really wanted to control the environment for the people inside, two concentric geodesic domes could be placed one on top of another, creating a thin (say) 40 foot wide gap between the two ceilings. The gap could be used for wind flow and the harvesting of its energy, while the part inside the lower (smallest) dome could be used for just about anything – commercial office space, a manufacturing plant, basketball court, … you name it!

Retrofit Option

Depending on how attractive this structure could be made to be, and on its cost effectiveness, we might imagine putting one of these things on top of an existing structure. Rooftop wind turbines are generally frowned upon, but I think this is mostly because of the harshly turbulent conditions within which a rooftop turbine must normally operate. The dome solves this problem in several ways. First, it doesn’t have any sharp turbulence producing edges. Second, its rotors are small and therefore less sensitive to turbulence, and they can be located in a short cylindrical shroud that is equipped with the same kinds of turbulence attenuating apparatus as is found in wind tunnels. And finally, if a small rotor does eventually develop a crack due to turbulence-induced fatique, simply replace it. It’s small, and so the cost of replacing it is no big deal.

I saw a medium sized, three story motel the other day that looked like it could easily accomodate a Geodesic Dome Turbine. If the dome had enough vents to open during a wind storm, it would seem likely that the motel could accomodate the turbine in spite of the fact that the building designers had not accounted for the extra load.

April 27, 2009

Wind Turbine With Blimp Supported Flow Accelerator

Wind Turbine With Blimp Wind Turbine With Supported Flow Accelerator

Wind Turbine With Blimp Wind Turbine With Supported Flow Accelerator

Ultra High Altitude Low Visual Pollution Variation

There are a few problems with the turbine just described:

  • The weight of the suspended tarp may be prohibitive.
  • The tarp resource is poorly leveraged because much of the wind it redirects is low-energy wind that is close to the ground.
  • The blimp resource is poorly leveraged because much of its size and weight stems from the need to support the large part of the tarp that is close to the ground.
  • The blimps are not able to fly at high altitude because the tarp would simply be too heavy to lift to high altitude.
  • The exceedingly powerful suction developed by such a large flow accelerator may reverse the flow that is near to the ground and not too far above the turbine and the lower edge of the tarp.

This variation proposes to solve these problems and permit extremely high altitude wind to be harvested:

Wind Turbine With Blimp Supported Flow Accelerator, Side View, High Altitude Variation

Wind Turbine With Blimp Supported Flow Accelerator, Side View, High Altitude Variation

Now the blimps and tarp may be separated from the turbine by a very large vertical distance, and the suction is carried to the ground through light-weight fabric tubes that are supported on the guy wires. As an alternative to the design shown above, one tube can be fixed to carry high pressure and the other can carry low pressure. The turbine is then placed between the openings of these two tubes at ground level.

I wonder if this design or something like it would be capable of reaching the jet streams? I guess that’s pretty outrageous, and probably not even necessary. (It may be more economical to harvest lower altitude winds using several machines than to build a single gigantic machine that reaches the jet stream. Plus you’d have the safety issue – what if a cable breaks? Of course, I guess you could always put it out in the ocean. Another potential problem with extremely high altitudes is that the wind direction up there might not be the same as on the ground. But then again, if you’re getting so much energy from altitude, you could just put the turbine rotor inside the tube, and also put the rotor on the ground so that it doesn’t have to yaw. This way the wind velocity near the ground would be insignificant compared to the velocity of air moving through the tube, and so it wouldn’t matter which way the rotor were pointed, or which way the opening of the tube were pointed. In fact, you could use a HAWT rotor that spins about a vertical axis, and let the tube extend from the rotor in the vertical direction.)

April 26, 2009

Segmented Circular Wind Dam With Adjustable Flow Accelerators

Segmented Circular Wind Dam With Adjustable Flow Accelerators

Almost all of the AeroArchitecture (non-turbine) part of this machine is fixed. The only part of the flow manipulating structure that is not fixed is the curved blue panels. The rotational angle of these panels is regulated by the turbine controller, and is a function of wind direction. I have drawn these panels at what I believe to be approximately the correct rotational angles given wind direction, but of course this is only an intuitive guess. I think some detailed aerodynamic modeling will be required to determine the optimum angles for the panels. However, let me explain the reasoning behind my guess.

Let’s begin by pretending that the adjustable panels and the turbines are not present, and that the circular wall does not have segments cut out of it. In other words, the wind is flowing around a very tall round wall. In this case the high pressure region will be around the most upwind part of the wall. The flow accelerates to get around the wall, and I think the lowest pressure will be approximately at the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions. The flow about the rest of the wall is oscillatory and unstable. Vortices are shed in alternating fashion, first from one side of the wall and then from the other. For example, the flow may detach at about 4:30, and a clockwise vortex (with a vertical axis) will spin off of the wall at that point. Then the flow will detach at about 7:30, and a counter-clockwise vortex will spin off the wall at that point. Then the pattern will repeat. So the first thing to notice is that it may be desirable to add adjustable panels at 2:30, 4:30, 7:30, and 10:30 in order to prevent the vortex shedding. I have not drawn these panels because I don’t know if they will actually be necessary. Remember that the wind is being de-energized by the 4 turbines, and maybe this will be sufficient for stabilizing the flow. In any case, let’s forget about the vortex shedding for a moment, and consider the system as depicted above (with the segments removed from the wall, the curved adjustable blue panels, and the turbines present just as depicted in the diagram).

As I said, the high pressure occurs at the 12 o’clock position. As the diagram shows, the wind is flowing more or less straight at the 12 o’clock turbine. In this case, both the adjustable curved panels and the curved parts of the wall that extend downstream from the turbine act to concentrate and accelerate the flow through the 12 o’clock turbine.

Now let’s consider the 3 and 9 o’clock turbines. I am reasoning that the wind is moving slow and is at a relatively high pressure in the regions just inside the wall near these two turbines. This is true because the wind has been forced to flow through a very large cross-section inside the wall, and also because the wind has been de-energized somewhat as it passed through the 12 o’clock turbine. On the other hand, the velocity is at a maximum and the pressure at a minimum in the areas that are outside of the wall and outside of the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock turbines. This is true because the wind has had to speed up to get around the wall, and also because it has yet to pass through any turbines, and so it hasn’t had energy extracted from it yet. Based on all this reasoning, I have elected to orient the adjustable panels so as to further encourage the flow that already wants to happen anyway – that is, the flow from slow high pressure inside the dam to fast low pressure outside the dam. When you consider what normally happens when wind flows through a turbine, you see that it is not exactly as I have described:

  • Flow through a traditional turbine is from high velocity and high pressure to low velocity and low pressure.
  • The flow that I just described is from low velocity and high pressure to high velocity and low pressure.

So maybe my reasoning is flawed. Of course, the rules will be changed when flow is manipulated, and in this case we are not only manipulating the flow, but we are manipulating it a great deal with a very very large structure. So I guess the only way to figure out whether my reasoning is correct is to build a sophisticated aerodynamic model and see what it says. Anyway… if you take a look at the hypothetical path of flow I’ve drawn near the left side of the diagram, you can see that the flow will be exiting the trailing edge of the adjustable panel at high velocity, just like the way air exits the trailing edge of an airplane wing. So I am reasoning that this flow will draw the dead air out of the inside of the dam and through the turbine.

Now for the 6 o’clock turbine. This one seems pretty straightforward. On the one hand, you might expect that the adjustable panels and the fixed curved parts of the wall that extend upwind of the 6 o’clock turbine should together look exactly like the flow accelerating structure around the 12 o’clock turbine. The reason I haven’t drawn it that way is because assuming we are able to successfully prevent the flow from detaching from the wall and spinning into a vortex, then the flow will be wanting to curve in the downstream direction as it continues its journey away from the wind dam in the downwind direction. In this case, the panels need to be rotated toward this path somewhat so that the flow doesn’t collide with the most downwind end of the adjustable panel and spin off of that sharp edge in a vortex.

April 25, 2009

Horizontal Savonius Circular Wind Dam

Horizontal Savonius Circular Wind Dam

Sustainable Skyscraper

A very tall building reserves some floors for producing energy. I guess you’d have to produce a heck of a lot of energy to generate as much revenue as you could get by leasing the space instead. I haven’t crunched any numbers or anything, but since the wind might be very strong at these altitudes, I’m guessing maybe it would work. Remember that the turbines would produce power 24 hours a day, and seven days a week. The office space would only be used for a fraction of that time:

Sustainable Skyscraper, Side View

Sustainable Skyscraper, Aerial View

Even more energy can be concentrated at the turbine if some of the wind from the non-turbine floors could also be collected. This might not be as difficult as it sounds:

Aerial View of Floor Used For Office Space Showing Flow Concentrating Windows, Sustainable Skyscraper

High pressure develops on the upwind side of the building in the cavity formed by the flow concentrating windows. Much of the air will simply escape around the outside edges of these upwind windows, but a lot of it will escape by flowing in the vertical directions (both up and down). Once this air escapes by moving either up or down, it will find itself at the entrance of the flow concentrating panels on one of the power producing floors. It thus augments the flow through the pie slice shaped flow concentrator. The same thing happens (but with opposite polarity) on the downwind side of the building. Note that these outside windows may span several floors of office space. In this case, we don’t have several levels of windows. Instead, just one tall window spans however many office floors are between the power producing floors.

It also might not be that difficult to think of ways to make sure no accidents happen. For example, the windows that can swing open are certainly designed so that there’s no way the wind could ever be strong enough to tear them from the building. But just to make sure, a cable could attach to the middle of the top and bottom of each window. The other end of the cable would be right above or below on one of the power generating floors, and it could attach either to the floor or the ceiling as the case may be. An alarm is activated if ever the window detaches from the building. Now there are 4 mechanisms that simultaneously guarantee the safety of the public:

  1. the windows are designed to be strong enough to withstand any weather conditions,
  2. the bottom of the window is tethered to the building in case the design proves to be flawed and the window tears away anyway,
  3. the top of the window is also tethered,
  4. an alarm notifies the authorities if ever a window becomes detached from the building (leaving it hanging from the 2 tethering cables). If the alarm is ever triggered, the streets below may be quickly evacuated.

Narrow Flow Concentrating Channels Variation

Here’s a variation that looks like it might make better use of real estate. (A mathematical analysis should be developed to verify whether this is indeed the case.) It is difficult for me to draw this variation, so let me first present a crude drawing that has some structures omitted, then I’ll explain how it works:

Aerial View, Sustainable Skyscraper with Narrow Flow Concentrating Channels

The panel in the center of the building yaws so as to separate the upwind flow concentrating channels from the downwind channels. The height of this panel is equal to the height of the building. High pressure air in the upwind channels is forced up to the roof of the building. This air is now drawn down from the roof of the building through the low pressure downwind channels. The turbine rotor and generator are on the roof. One side of the turbine rotor faces the high pressure air and the other side faces the low pressure air. In this way, a single turbine rotor and generator converts the wind to electricity. Alternatively, several (2 or 3) rotors are positioned (say) 10 stories apart, so that each turbine converts 10 stories worth of wind energy to electricity.

April 24, 2009

Circular Wind Dam

The Circular Wind Dam first described in this post may not provide much improvement over the current state of the art. However, it lays the groundwork for some variations that I think may be very viable indeed. These variations are presented toward the end of this post, but in case you’re in a hurry, here’s a general idea of the type of machine that we will be working toward:

Circular Wind Dam, Rotated Energy Exchange Variation

Also, make sure you read the section entitled Advantages of the Wind Dam Over Current State of the Art Wind Turbines, as this section presents some very very powerful ideas.

Circular Wind Dam

A circular hallway is made of brick or concrete. It is extremely high, and it has an extremely large diameter. A number of walls block the hallway inside:

Aerial View of Circular Wind Dam, Twelve Walls Block the Inside of the Hallway

Here is a cross-section of the Wind Dam that shows one of the walls that block the hallway. The wall has a hole cut into it, and a wind turbine rotor captures the energy of the wind that flows through the hole:

Cross-Sectional View of Circular Wind Dam Showing Wall and Turbine Rotor

The outside of the Wind Dam has holes cut into it. These holes have sliding doors that are kind of like garage doors. The doors can block the holes, or they can open the holes to the outside air:

Circular Wind Dam

The holes near the upwind side of the dam and the holes near the downwind side of the dam are opened, while all of the other holes are kept closed. Now wind flows through the hallway from the upwind side to the downwind side. The wind turns the turbine rotors that are embedded into the walls that partially block the hallway, and the turbine rotors drive generators to make electricity. The turbine rotors and generators work just like the rotors and generators on a standard wind turbine, except that gearboxes might not be required between the turbine rotors and generators of the Wind Dam. This is true because the Wind Dam and the holes that house the turbine rotors have a concentrating effect on the wind, so that wind flows through the holes and turbine rotors at a much higher velocity than the velocity of the wind outside the dam.

Concentric Hallways Variation

A wall is added inside of the hallway that separates it into two hallways that form concentric rings:

Circular Wind Dam, Concentric Hallways Variation

The previous variation of the Wind Dam had holes in the outside wall – that is, the wall that faces the outside of the dam. In addition to these “outside holes”, the Concentric Hallways Wind Dam has holes that face the inside of the dam (the area enclosed by the dam). The holes facing the inside of the dam are controlled in exactly the same way as the holes that face the outside of the dam. That is, only the holes that are near the upwind and downwind sides of the dam are kept open, and all of the other holes are kept closed. Oddly, wind flows through the inside (smaller diameter) hallway from the downwind side to the upwind side.

Since wind flows through the hallways in opposite directions, we can replace the horizontal axis rotors with a vertical axis rotors. There are many ways to do this, but for the sake of making the diagram easy to draw, let’s use Savonius rotors with flat vanes. Notice that wind will always flow in opposite directions through the hallways regardless of which direction the outside wind is blowing:

Circular Wind Dam, Concentric Hallways VariationHere’s a diagram that shows how wind flows through the dam:

Circular Wind Dam Concentric Hallways Variation Showing Approximate Flow of Wind

Advantages of the Wind Dam Over Current State of the Art Wind Turbines

  • Most of your investment in a current State of the Art Horizontal Axis Wind Turbine (SOTAHAWT) is used to purchase sensitive, short life components that are difficult to design and that are easy to break. The majority of an investment in a Wind Dam purchases the structure itself – basically just a pile of bricks – and this investment will probably still be productive 100 years from today. (Think of the great hydro-dams in the NorthWestern United States.) And if somebody knocks a hole into the wall… big deal – just fill it in with a few more bricks. But suppose instead that an expensive component on one of your SOTAHAWTs fails. Suppose have to replace a turbine blade that is 150 feet long! You buy a new blade, wait 3 months for it to be manufactured, somehow get that 150 foot blade to the site and then weave it in between the other turbines, hire a crane, take the old blade down, put the new one up. You see what I mean – most of your investment might as well be stored in a crystal goldfish bowl that is balanced on top of a 300 foot FM radio tower. My goodness… how can you even sleep at night!? I don’t know how large the turbine rotor blades will be in the Wind Dam, but even if they are 20 feet long… so what? They don’t represent a significant fraction of your investment, and repairing and replacing them are no big deal.
  • The Wind Dam is virtually indestructible. It can assume a very low drag profile during storm winds by opening all of the doors in the inside and outside walls of the dam. Its drag profile may be further reduced by installing sliding doors into the wall that separates the two concentric hallways. These sliding doors may also be opened during storm winds to keep the drag profile to a minimum. No large sensitive components (rotor blades, etc) are required to withstand storm wind drag forces.
  • Wind turbine rotors, gearboxes (if required), and generators are all located inside the Wind Dam. Thus, these relatively sensitive components are well protected from wind, rain, snow, and other weather. And it would be easy to provide heating for these components during cold weather.
  • The Wind Dam is very quiet because noisy components are located inside the dam.
  • Electrical components are virtually immune to lightning strikes. This is true because these components are housed inside the dam, and because the dam has lightning rods on top to direct lightning strikes away from sensitive components.
  • The life of a Wind Dam will probably far exceed the 20 or 30 year lifespan of your typical SOTAHAWT. It is obvious that this would hold true for the structural part of the Wind Dam (the bricks). What is less obvious is that smaller rotors that turn at higher speeds that drive higher voltage electrical equipment, all of which live in the luxurious indoor environment of the wind dam, will also last much longer than the massive SOTAHAWT components that are stressed, fatigued, and pounded by wind, rain, snow, ice, cold temperature, humidity, and lightning year after year after year. Also, smaller components last longer than larger components because they are easier to design and because they are subjected to less vigorous mechanical abuse than are larger components.
  • Since the wind turbine rotors and electrical equipment live inside the Wind Dam, it’s hard to imagine the machine posing any danger whatsoever to the public. Can you imagine what would happen if a 150 foot rotor blade became detached from a SOTAHAWT? I wouldn’t be surprised if it could pierce through the roof of an enclosed baseball stadium. This also reflects in the cost of wind generated electricity. Because of the danger of accidents, SOTAHAWT components are quite significantly over-engineered. But normal safety margins could easily be justified in the design of the Wind Dam, and this will significantly lower costs.
  • An oft cited disadvantage of wind energy is that it has a very low energy density. The wind dam solves this problem. I don’t know what the water pressure is at the bottom of a hydro dam, but I know it’s huge. Water is heavy. But the fact that the energy density of water is high means that you need a lot of concrete to hold it back. Maybe your hydro dam is only as long as a couple of football fields, but it has 50 million dollars worth of concrete in it. But the wind dam is holding back something that is much lighter, so the walls do not have to be so massive. Maybe the circumference of the wind dam is 75 football fields, but since the walls are thin, they still have the same total amount of concrete: 50 million dollars worth. Warm up to the idea that the density of investment capital is directly proportional to the density of energy. Spreading energy out over a larger area does not raise the capital cost of the structure required to harvest that energy, it merely spreads the same capital cost out over the same larger area. Getting uptight about the low energy density in wind is like worrying about whether you should stack your money in a pile when you count it, or whether you should lay your dollar bills end to end across the bedroom floor. Actually, if you carpet your house with dollar bills, it looks like a lot more money than if you just put them in a greasy old stack with a rubber band. (But what about storms? Won’t the wind dam have to be massive and expensive in order to withstand storm winds? No. Consider the hydro dam. If more precipitation falls than you expected, you simply open the gates and let the water run through the dam. But exactly the same approach works for the wind dam. If there’s a hurricane, you simply open all the doors and let the wind pass through unimpeded. And if you have trouble making this approach work, remember that the light weight surfaces of a wind dam may be folded up, rolled up, retracted, or even laid down on the ground.)

Real Estate Sharing Variation

The wind dam can be built near areas that have residences or commercial activity, since there’s no possibility whatsoever of an accident, and since the noise is probably mostly contained inside the hallways. Holes can be cut into the walls so that roads can go through. In this case, the air is simply routed over the passageway in an aerodynamically friendly way. You could put a wind dam around a cornfield, and make a passageway big enough for a combine to get through.

Wind Vane Doors Variation

Instead of garage doors that roll up into the ceiling, maybe curved doors could be used instead to further concentrate flow in the hallways:

Circular Wind Dam Concentric Hallways with Wind Vane Doors

Very High Altitude Variation

Imagine an extremely tall (500 feet?) circular wind dam. It may have a single internal hallway, or it may have two concentric hallways. The very-high-altitude very-high-velocity wind causes the air inside the hallway(s) to also move at high velocity. This action may be accomplished in any of the ways depicted above: doors that open and close, curved vanes, or via some other appropriate aerodynamic components. However, once inside the hallway, the energy is transferred from the highest part of the hallway to a lower altitude region of the inside of the hallway. This may be achieved by blocking all altitudes within the hallway except for those that are (say) 300 feet or lower. Or it may be achieved by using nearly horizontal airfoils that direct the high-altitude energy downward toward the earth, or by some other kind aerodynamic hanky-panky. Bringing the high energy to the lower elevations allows the turbine rotors, gearboxes, and generators to be positioned at a lower altitude.

As stated in another post on this blog, Synopsis of the Best Design Tricks Developed to Date, if you can’t put the turbine up into the high altitude high energy wind, then bring the high altitude high energy wind down to the turbine. (I wrote that synopsis of best design tricks post in a hurry… don’t be disappointed because it’s actually not a very good post. Hope to have time to rewrite it later.)

Energy Exchange Variation

Circular Wind Dam, Energy Exhange Variation

For ideas on how to design a very tall H Rotor (Straight-Bladed Darrieus), see High Speed Centrifugally Stable VAWT. Of course, any VAWT may be used with the energy exchanging version of the Wind Dam, and the Savonius may be a good choice as well.

Another approach would use H Rotors with a horizontal axis. One end of a rotor’s axis would be anchored to the smaller diameter wall, and the other to the larger diameter wall. The rotor’s axis should be parallel to a line that extends radially from the center of the circle formed by the smaller diameter wall segments. (This is, or course, the same point that is the center of the circle formed by the larger diameter wall segments.) And, or course, the H Rotor’s axis would also be parallel to the ground. Anyway, you stack these horizontal axis H Rotors one on top of the other so that they form an “aerodynamic barrier” that extends from the ground to the height of the two walls (smaller and larger diameter walls). Since the axes of these rotors are all parallel, they can all be connected with a common chain drive. The chain extends to a sprocket which is on the generator shaft, and the generator shaft is on the ground.

Furthermore, if it is determined that HAWT rotors would provide better efficiency or this design, simply replace the 3 bladed H Rotors above with walls that can rotate through an angle of 180 degrees. Now cut round holes in these walls, and install HAWT rotors in the holes. Now rotate the wall by 180 degrees if the wind passes through the holes in the direction that is opposite the direction that the HAWT rotors are intended to act upon.

Two Concentric Circular Wind Dams, Energy Exhange Variation

Rotated Energy Exchange Variation

Circular Wind Dam, Rotated Energy Exchange Variation

I wonder if you could put some kind of a smooth geodesic dome structure on top of a Walmart to smooth out all the turbulence generated when wind pushes up vertically from the walls and tries to make the right angle turn to flowing across the roof. And I wonder if you could build a wind turbine that looks a little like the one above and put it on top of that dome roof.

Circular Wind Dam, Rotated Energy Exchange Variation

Circular Wind Dam, Rotated Energy Exchange Variation

Circular Wind Dam, Rotated Energy Exchange Variation

Circular Wind Dam, Rotated Energy Exchange Variation with Alternating Diffusor Concentrators

Circular Wind Dam, Rotated Energy Exchange Variation with Alternating Diffusor Concentrators

Circular Wind Dam, Rotated Energy Exchange Variation with Alternating Diffusor Concentrators 2

Circular Wind Dam, Rotated Energy Exchange Variation

Circular Wind Dam

Controlling Vortex Shedding

Circular Wind Dam, Control of Vortex Shedding

Circular Wind Dam, Control of Vortex Shedding (closeup)

High Altitude Variation

Suppose the wind turbine blades extend from an elevation of 50 feet up to an elevation of 150 feet. We would like for the walls of the wind dam to reach an altitude of 300 feet. This allows us to extract some of the energy from higher energy density wind at altitude. There are a variety of ways I can think of to do this, but I’m wondering if all that is necessary is to make the walls of the wind dam lean in one direction or the other:

Wall Leans to Access High Energy Density Wind at Altitude

At first, this solution would seem to be sensitive to wind direction. But I’m wondering if maybe that isn’t the case. Imagine, for example, wind flowing from right to left in the diagram above. Intuitively, it would seem that high energy high altitude wind would be driven downward towards the earth by the slanted portion of the wall. This is reminiscent of a flow concentrator. But if instead wind flows from the left to the right, high energy high altitude wind ramps over the slanted portion of the wall, reminiscent of a flow diffuser. In this later case, wouldn’t some of its energy still be transferred to lower altitude wind, albeit through the action of suction rather than through the action of compression?

Of course, it is also important to note that a certain amount of the high energy high altitude wind will be deflected downward (toward the earth) even if the entire wall is vertical (rather than having the upper part slanted).

In any case, if a leaning wall proves to be useful, note that it is easy to build one by anchoring fabric to the guy wires of a tower:

Making Leaning Fabric Wall with Guyed Tubular Tower

Better Diagrams of High Altitude Variation?

I’m not much of an artist, and I’m using 2D software to boot. But here’s an attempt at rendering one of the variations that captures energy from high-altitude winds without using tall turbines:

Aerial View of Pseudo-High-Altitude Circular Wind Dam

One Section of Polygon of Pseudo-High-Altitude Circular Wind Dam with Darrieus Rotors

Side View of Pseudo-High-Altitude Circular Wind Dam with Darrieus Rotors

Circular Wind Dam Pseudo-High-Altitude Variation #2

Aerial View of Pseudo-High-Altitude Circular Wind Dam Variation #2

Side View of Pseudo-High-Altitude Circular Wind Dam Variation #2 (wind blowing from right)

Side View of Pseudo-High-Altitude Circular Wind Dam Variation #2 (wind blowing from left)

Circular Wind Dam Pseudo-High-Altitude Variation #2 Stacked on top of Rotated Energy Exchange Variation

Just stack the high altitude part:

High Altitude Part

On top of the low altitude part:

Circular Wind Dam, Rotated Energy Exchange Variation

Put the towers inside the brick walls, and make the lower ends of the tarps come approximately to the tops of the brick walls.

Circular Wind Dam Pseudo-High-Altitude Variation #3

Aerial View of Pseudo-High-Altitude Circular Wind Dam Variation #3

Using HAWTs instead of VAWTs

Of course, HAWTs may be substituted for VAWTs in the above designs. Just block the regions of accelerated flow with walls, cut holes in the walls, and put HAWT rotors into the holes. The only other necessary modification is that you’d have to figure out a way to “yaw” the HAWT by 180 degrees. This is so because the wind may flow in either direction through the hole, depending on the direction of the ambient wind.

Non-Circular Variation

Non-Circular Wind Dam Rotated Energy Exchange VariationIf a non-circular path is properly designed, the wind dam will still be equally effective (or almost equally effective) regardless of wind direction. For an explanation of how to design a non-circular path, see the earlier post 20 Megawatt Direct Drive Darrieus.

April 23, 2009

Extremely Tall Direct Drive Wind Turbine

No Wind, Extremely Tall Direct Drive Wind Turbine

Aerial View, Extremely Tall Direct Drive Wind Turbine

Wind Blowing, Turbine Producing Power, Extremely Tall Direct Drive Wind Turbine

Airborne Wind Dam

A blimp suspends a giant flow accelerator with a small high-power turbine in the middle of it. In other words, a blimp suspends a turbine that looks kind of like the one described in this earlier post:

Wind Turbine with Flow Accelerating Shroud

This rotor will spin at high rpm, so it is easy to make it a direct drive machine. As described in prior posts, the bottom of the flow accelerator can attach to the top of a supporting tube in order that the blimp doesn’t have to carry the entire gravity load of the shroud and turbine. The tube is on wheels and a control system causes it to follow the blimp around with changing wind speed and direction.

Here’s another variation:

Airborne Wind Dam

Airborne Wind Dam with Lattice Support

Blimp With a Hole Variation

In this variation, the blimp has a cylindrical hole right through the middle of it (running down its longitudinal dimension). The small high-speed direct drive turbine rotor is inside this cylinder. A large shroud like the ones depicted above encircles the blimp in order to further accelerate flow through the cylinder and direct drive turbine rotor.

Airborne Wind Dam, Cylindrical Hole in Blimp

Skyscraper Variation

In this variation, the blimp is moored to the top of a skyscraper. When the windspeed gets too high the blimp simply detaches from the building and flies to a nearby airport where it lands until the storm passes. I hate to make the next suggestion, because somebody might actually do it. The blimp could be moored to the top of a mountain. This would produce a lot of visual pollution, so I don’t think it’s a very good idea.

Lightweight Electrical Components Variation

The blimp is big and round. It has plenty of room for a ring generator. Of course, you don’t need a ring generator to make this machine direct drive, because the accelerated flow through the cylinder is already sufficient for making the turbine rotor spin at high rpm. But if the turbine drives a very large diameter ring generator, then electricity can be generated with high voltage. If voltage is high, then current is low, and the weight of electrical components such as the electrical cables is minimized. (I’m assuming insulation weighs less than copper.)

Structural Electrical Cable Variation

This option develops electrical cable technology that is suitable both for conducting electrical power and for carrying a tensile mechanical load. This minimizes the weight of the mooring cable, since the electrical cable simultaneously provides both mechanical and electrical functions.

Aerodynamic Transmission Variation

The diagram below is a little ridiculous, but I’m a terrible artist, and I’m using 2D software to create these diagrams, so for this diagram I decided to come up with something that just shows the general idea. And the general idea is to reduce the weight of airborne components by using a light-weight hollow tube to moor the blimps. The hollow tube transmits the high air pressure that accumulates at the center of the dam (shroud) to the ground. A small high-speed turbine rotor drives a generator at the ground level end of the tube. The turbine rotor is high speed, and so it doesn’t need a gearbox. The airborne system carries no electrical or mechanical devices, and so it is light in weight.

Airborne Wind Dam With Aerodynamic Transmission

This idea suggests an interesting question – what happens to the Betz Limit when de-energized air doesn’t flow away from the turbine on the downwind side of the turbine “rotor”?

Of course, the aerodynamic transmission may also be applied to more convention turbine designs. Perhaps a shroud is positioned at the top of a conventional wind turbine tower, and the tower itself is used to route the high pressure air to a turbine rotor and generator on the ground.

Pressure Differential Aerodynamic Transmission Variation

A wall is added to the inside of the aerodynamic transmission tube. This separates the tube into two halves, just as though there were two tubes instead of one. One half of the tube opens on the high pressure side of the shroud, and the other half opens on the low pressure side. This pressure differential is carried to the ground where one side of a high-speed turbine rotor encounters the high pressure, and the other side of the rotor encounters the low pressure. Air thus flows through the rotor and turns an electric generator.

Cross-Section of Aerodynamic Transmission Tube Showing Transmission of Pressure Differential

Rotating Drive Shaft Variation

Hollow, light-weight, rotating tubes are connected end-to-end through universal joints. The tubes are attached to the mooring cable and so are suspended beneath the mooring cable. A high-speed rotor at the top transmits power to the ground through the rotating drive shaft tubes. The spins at high rpm so drive shaft torque is low.

Reciprocating Blimps

Two blimps are moored to each end of a horizontal tube or lattice structure that is near the ground. The tube rotates about a vertical axis that goes through the center of its longitudinal dimension. Each blimp is equipped with a giant light-weight parachute that looks like an old World War II parachute. These parachutes can be opened up to create a high drag profile, or closed to create an extremely low drag profile. When one blimp opens up its parachute, the other closes its parachute. The blimps take turns opening their parachutes in order for the wind to drag alternately drag each in the downwind direction. The reciprocating action of the horizontal mooring tube drives a generator.

Alternatively, perhaps a large “venetian blind” structure hangs from each blimp. The slats in these blinds can be opened up to create near zero drag profile, or closed to create a high drag profile. This variation is modeled after the turbine depicted below:

Here’s an embodiment that uses venetian blind like slats:

One of a Pair of Reciprocating Blimps

Rotary Variation

This is the same idea, except that the horizontal tube rotates instead of reciprocating. As the end of the tube begins its 180 degree “downwind sweep”, the blimp that is moored to it closes its slats to create maximum drag, and the other blimp opens its slats to minimize drag.

Adding HAWT Rotors

Instead of using drag devices, a giant HAWT rotor can be attached to the tail of the blimp. The rotor has very long, very light weight blades that rely on centrifugal stiffening to maintain their extended shape. These minimize drag by feathering their blades, and maximize drag by pitching their blades to a position similar to a HAWT turbine that is producing power. The drag action is similar to the lifting action of an autogyro. In other words, the HAWT rotors are not present to generate power directly. They are only present to control the drag profile of the blimp. On the other hand, perhaps a means can be devised for allowing them to augment the power produced by the system. In order to keep the weight of airborne components to a minimum, they do not produce very much electricity, but they do add a little bit to the electricity that is produced on the ground.

Blimp VAWT

Since no people will ride in the blimp, I guess it could be filled with hydrogen.

Blimp VAWT

I’m always drawing 2 bladed VAWTs when I really mean 3. A three bladed VAWT produces relatively constant power, and more importantly in this case, thrust. Since wind speed will normally increase with altitude, blade radius increases with altitude so as to maintain a more constant tip speed ratio. For simplicity, I drew only 2 guy wires. In reality, at least three would be required.

The turbine’s rotational axis can tilt, and the gearbox and generator tilt along with the rotor axis. This allows the wind turbine to seek its optimum orientation given wind speed and other parameters. Alternatively, perhaps the lower end of the wind turbine (the generator) is on wheels and is able to move if the turbine wants to move. Since the structure will be very heavy, the control system would likely control the movement of the generator this way and that along the ground as wind conditions change. But if we let the lower end of the turbine move, then we may as well save some weight by using only one guy wire or lattice to moor the blimp. In this case, the turbine will “yaw” by roughly tracing out a circle about the guy wire anchor point as the wind direction sweeps through a 360 degree arc.

The teardrop streamlined shape of the blimp is critical. If any old shape is used for the floatation device, then the wind will tend to carry it downstream. I don’t know what the optimum aerodynamic profile would be, but you would want to minimize drag. For this reason, perhaps a very elongated shape (kind of like a cigar) might be used.

Kites and Airfoils

Additional lift may be generated if a kite is positioned on top of the blimp. Imagine, for example, those modern parachutes that look like a big airfoil made out of something like nylon. If one of these is mounted on a vertical pole that extends upward from the blimp, then it will “take flight” when the wind speed reaches a sufficient value. In this case it will be available to add further support for the turbine whenever the turbine is running and producing power. Some kind of inflatable airfoil might do the same trick. If a kite or modern parachute is used, it will be suspended by its supporting structure in a shape and orientation that “prepares it” for taking flight when the wind picks up.

Other Variations

I think there must be many ways to develop better configurations if more than one blimp is employed. For example, two blimps could be moored to a giant circular railroad track. The anchor points are “yawed” so that a line connecting them forms a right angle with wind direction. The blimps are connected by a cable, and multiple VAWT turbines are suspended from the cable that connects the two blimps.

Weight is obviously one of the primary issues with airborne turbines. Perhaps some sort of inflatable airfoils can be used. The airfoils may even themselves be filled with hydrogen. Or a design similar to those light-weight modern parachutes might be used for the blades.

April 21, 2009

Semi-Direct Drive Linear Turbine With Yawing Oblong Track

Ideal Path for Wind Turbine Blade

Doesn’t it seem like the ideal path for a wind turbine blade would have the entire blade moving at “tip speed”, spending the majority of its time traveling in a direction that is orthogonal to the direction of the wind?

Description of the Machine

Aerial View Semi-Direct Linear Turbine With Yawing Oblong Track Built Into Cornfield

(Note that the word “power cable” in the diagram below does not refer to an electrical cable, but rather to a cable that carries the mechanical power to the pulley wheels at the generators.)

Side View of Semi-Direct Drive Linear Turbine With Yawing Oblong Track

Looking at Leading Edge of Airfoil Semi-Direct Drive Linear Turbine With Yawing Oblong Track

Cross-Wind View of Tower Semi-Direct Drive Linear Turbine With Yawing Oblong Track

Bowed Airfoil Rides Padded Rims of Pulley Wheels Semi-Direct Drive Linear Turbine With Yawing Oblong Track

Aerial View of Apparatus That Routes Airfoil and Power Cable Round Tower Semi-Direct Drive Linear Turbine With Yawing Oblong Track

Drag on Moving Cable

How much aerodynamic drag does a moving cable add to the system compared to the drag of a strut or the low speed part of a troposkein Darrieus blade? Consider an H Rotor supported by a strut. The instantaneous velocity of a given radial location on the strut is at right angles to its longitudinal dimension. For this reason, it is able to leave a semi-evacuated space behind it as it moves. This space is filled with turbulent air. But the velocity of a given cylindrical cross-section of a cable is along its longitudinal dimension. Because there is always more cable following any cylindrical cross section, it is impossible for the cable to leave a semi-evacuated space in its wake. The only semi-evacuated, turbulated space it can leave is on its downwind side, and the force thus produced cannot drag down the system because it is orthogonal to the velocity of the cable. The only aerodynamic drag that is possible is that drag that is created by the cable’s ability to “stick to the air around it”. I’m not an aerodynamicist, but I’m guessing this might turn out to be pretty small. Also, the moving cable in the machine presented here has small diameter because it moves at “tip speed”, and because it is only required to carry the torque at tip speed. Because tip speed is high, torque will be low, and the cable will have small diameter.

Circular Variation

One obvious disadvantage of the oblong path is the need to yaw the track. We can eliminate this problem by providing the turbine with a polygonal path that approximates a circle:

Aerial View Showing Polygonal Path That Is Approximately Circular

Airfoils Could be Slowed to Go Around Tower

To avoid inflicting excessive centrifugal force on the blades as they go around the tower, maybe the control system could sense the point at which blades are nearing towers, and slow them down somewhat as they make their way around the tower. Alternatively, mechanical support could be provided on the opposite side of the airfoil to prevent excessive bowing due to centrifugal force:

Wheels Support Airfoil as it Rounds Tower

Low Drag Airfoil Variation

The airfoils need to have gaps near the regions where the load carrying cables penetrate them. This is necessary to accomodate the mechanical supports for the apparatus that steers the airfoils around the tower. But if the airfoils carry a small generator, like the generator that rubs against a bicycle tire in order to power a light for the bicycle, then these gaps could be filled with streamlined shapes during the long path between the two towers. The streamlined shapes would be pulled out of the way as the airfoil makes its way around a tower. The actuating mechanism is powered by electricity that is generated from the small generator just described that is located inside the blades.

Alternatively, maybe the streamlining shapes could be pushed out of the way by some mechanical means as the airfoil goes around a tower.

April 15, 2009

20 Megawatt VAWT

This is a 3 or 6 bladed machine, but I’ve drawn only 2 blades (and 2 towers) in the diagrams to make them easier to understand.

20 Megawatt VAWT

Aerial View Showing How Circular Shape of Stationary Ring is Maintained With Cables Configured Like Spokes

20 Megawatt VAWT Drive System Detail

Aerial View of One Possible Drive System

The 20 Megawatt VAWT Exceeds the Betz Limit

The rule of thumb for separating horizontal axis turbines is that two turbines should not be closer than two or three rotor diameters. Apparently, after the streamtube has traveled two or three rotor diameters beyond the turbine, it will have re-absorbed kinetic energy from the surrounding wind to the extent that its energy density will have roughly returned to its original value. It’s easy to see how this will apply to a very large diameter VAWT. Simply imagine a ridiculously large turbine. Say for example the diameter of the VAWT described here is equal to the diameter of New York City. In this case it is obvious that the wind that passes through the downstream 180 degree arc will have just as much energy as the wind that passes through the upstream 180 degree arc. From this example we can see that the maximum fraction of energy that a very large diameter VAWT may extract is 2 x 60% = 120%. Darrieus rotors have a reputation for delivering lower efficiency than their horizontal axis cousins. However, given the doubling of the ceiling on energy extraction, it is reasonable to believe that a very large diameter VAWT may prove to be quite efficient. This is wonderful news, since one frequently cited reason for the gradual disappearance of the Darrieus from the windfarm landscape is that it has the larger weight per power ratio. The extraordinary scalability of the VAWT described here together with its ability to exceed the Betz limit may very well reverse this state of affairs.

Though I believe that a very large machine is possible with the configuration presented here, the design may also be useful for smaller machines. In this case, it seems like the outside towers might be eliminated:

Less Than 20 Megawatt VAWT

Another Variation

20 Megawatt VAWT

Aerial View Showing How Circular Shape of Stationary Ring is Maintained With Cables Configured Like Spokes

20 Megawatt VAWT Supporting Structure Detail

20 Megawatt VAWT Drive System Detail

Torque Tube Engaging Tires That Drive Generators

Another Variation

20 Megawatt VAWT (Zoomed Out) (Legend)

20 Megawatt VAWT (Zoomed Out)

Close Up Cross-Section of Airfoil Engaging Stationary Ring

Aerial View Showing How Circular Shape of Stationary Ring is Maintained With Cables Configured Like Spokes

In the interest of clarity, the diagram has a number of simplifications. For example, at least three towers are required, but more than three towers may be used if needed. Why would you need more than three towers? Because the diameter of this machine can be made very very large.

Aerial View of One Possible Drive System

One design alternative would have the generators on the ground. In this case, the central tower is replaced by the torque tube, and the torque tube extends to the ground where it engages the tire that drives the generator. Another alternative would replace the cables in the drive system with symmetrical airfoils. Why use airfoils instead of tubes? To minimize drag. Why airfoils instead of cables? Look again at the diagram that shows the whole machine:

20 Megawatt VAWT (Zoomed Out)

If the (vertical) airfoils are tall, the cable might make them bow too much or might put too much vertical load on the rings. Using a streamlined airfoil to transfer torque to the torque tube would eliminate these problems.

Single Airfoil Support Variation

20 Megawatt VAWT (Blade Supported in Middle, Zoomed Out)

20 Megawatt VAWT (Blade Supported in Middle, Drive Mechanism)

20 Megawatt VAWT (Blade Supported in Middle, Drive Mechanism with Symmetrical Airfoil Strut)

This post shows improvements on ideas from earlier posts. I won’t duplicate earlier discussions here, but I’ve pasted links below in case you want to read more. One very important point that is explained in earlier posts is that the wind machine proposed here can exceed the Betz limit. In fact, this machine can extract 120% of the kinetic energy flowing through the swept area instead of just 60%.

March 29, 2009

Eye of the Cat

From an aerodynamic perspective, the ideal vertical axis wind turbine rotor is the “H Rotor”:

H Rotor

Unfortunately, from a mechanical point of view, the H Rotor is terrible. This is so because as its blades bow out, seeking the troposkein shape, a tremendous load is applied to the horizontal beams that support the blades. This load is in exactly the direction that the beams are least able to support (tending to pull the ends of the beams together).

Mother Nature Doesn't Always Care What We Want

Now you know why the only H Rotors you see on YouTube are on small turbines rather than on utility scale machines. The small H Rotor is essentially a brute force solution to the problem. That is, if you’re only interested in small machines, then you can just make the stiffness of the blades and blade supports large enough to resist the tendency to assume a troposkein shape. Don’t get me wrong… I think the H Rotor is a good idea for small machines that will run the meter backwards at somebody’s home. But I just want to point out the irony in this approach, for if you go in the opposite direction, the problem goes away! To see this, simply imagine an H Rotor with a diameter of 10 miles. Now the velocity of the rotor blades is essentially linear, and there is no centrifugal force to bow the blades! (A little thought will reveal that the centrifugal force disappears because the airfoil velocity is always the same, regardless of the rotor diameter. This is true because the blade velocity is determined by wind speed and by the desired tip speed ratio. So if the wind speed is 20 mph and the desired tip speed ratio is 6, then the airfoil will travel at 120 mph regardless of the rotor diameter.) Of course, the aerodynamic forces also cause the blades to bend. In any case, it would be nice if there were an alternative technique, and there is! It is the mysterious and enchanting Eye of the Cat, and it eliminates the tendency of the blades to bow, whether this tendency is caused by aerodynamic forces or by centrifugal forces!

Eye of the Cat Darrieus

The aerodynamics of this rotor are close to ideal because we can select any blade shape that has the symmetrical force-balancing properties depicted above. (Actually the centrifugal force on the outer blade is greater than the centrifugal force on the inner blade, but they are approximately equal. If necessary, weight can be added to the inner blade to balance the opposing forces.)

I’m not sure what to think of the Cat’s Eye Turbine. It seems to me that it will work as described, but it does have some strange properties. For one thing, it is unstable. To see this, imagine the blades are supported by cables instead of beams. We have carefully added weight to the inner blades so that the vertical forces tending to increase the distance between the ends of the cables exactly balance the vertical forces that draw them together. However, any perturbation that slightly increases blade curvature also increases the centrifugal force on the outer blades, and decreases the centrifugal force on the inner blades. In this case, if the blades are sufficiently flexible, they will subsequently increase in curvature until the outer blade and the supporting cables form an approximately troposkein shape, while the inner blade mirrors the shape of the outer blade in the opposite direction. Furthermore, any perturbation that slightly straightens the blades will also increase the centrifugal force on the inner blades, and decrease the centrifugal force on the outer blades. In this case, both blades will eventually become perfectly straight, and then both blades will bow all the way out together until the whole structure, cable and blades, assumes a troposkein shape.

But on the positive side, consider how even the aerodynamic forces seem to resolve into approximately equal and opposite vertical forces on the ends of the supporting beams! Meow!!

It guess the feasibility of this machine boils down to whether the beams that support the blades can have stiffness sufficient for keeping the rotor from becoming unstable, and also whether the designers can put the rotor’s natural frequencies into an appropriate range.

Rotating Guy Wire Variation

Cat's Eye Darrieus, Rotating Guy Wire Variation

Traditionally Guyed Variation

Cat's Eye Darrieus, Traditionally Guyed Variation

Non-Vertical Axis Applications

The Eye of the Cat can also be applied to the Direct Drive Linear Turbine With Yawing Oblong Track, Radially Displaced HAWT Rotor, the HAWT With No Shaft.

March 27, 2009

Direct Drive Linear Turbine With Yawing Oblong Track

Direct Drive Linear Turbine With Yawing Oblong Track

Direct Drive Linear Turbine With Yawing Oblong Track, Close Up View of Blade to Blade Guide Interface

Although the direct drive apparatus isn’t shown in the diagrams, a written explanation should suffice. Permanent magnets are attached to the blade supporting structure that is at each end of the airfoils. The airfoils drive these magnets at a speed that is analogous to the “tip speed” of a more traditional wind turbine. Generator windings are built into the blade guides (aqua colored components in diagram above). Instead of embedding windings into the entire length of the blade guides, windings are separated somewhat. Blades speed up slightly while traversing the distance between windings.

Direct Drive Linear Turbine With Yawing Oblong Track, Aerial View

The blade inverting sections of the track permit the use of asymmetrical, pitched airfoils. (Asymmetrical, pitched airfoils deliver better aerodynamic performance than zero-pitch, symmetrical airfoils. For an explanation of the “helical airfoil inverting section” of the track, see my earlier post: 20 Megawatt Direct Drive Darrieus.)

I wonder if the blade guides can be flexible? If so, the flexibility may provide a number of benefits. For one thing a flexible guide might be cheaper, lighter in weight, and easier to build. For another, it may help to absorb abruptly changing loads due to (for example) wind gusts. It might be interesting to explore the possibility of a blade guide which is flexible enough to resemble, to a degree, a hanging cable, and yet which is still rigid enough to accurately maintain the tight mechanical tolerances that would be required for the direct drive generator components contained within it:

Can Blade Guides Be Flexible?

Two Hanging Cables Variation

Airfoil Suspended Between Two Cables (Drive System Omitted)

(If you haven’t yet read about why you might want to invert the blade, click here.)

Airfoil Suspended Between Two Cables

Close Up of Drive System for Airfoil Suspended Between Two Cables

It might be interesting to explore how the Eye of the Cat Rotor Blades would perform when hanging from two cables. Although there’s no centrifugal forces to balance, remember that the Cat’s Eye Rotor also balances aerodynamic forces. In this case, think about what happens if the blades are longer than the separation distance of the cables (including slack… so that they tend to keep the cables pushed apart).

Single Hanging Cable Variation

In this variation, sensors detect when two airfoils get too close to each other. In this case, the direct drive generator coils for the leading airfoil are switched off until it reaches an acceptable distance from the airfoil immediately behind it.

View Looking Down Structural Cable Cable Hanging Between Towers

View Looking Down Structural Cable, Moving and Stationary Parts, Cable Hanging Between Towers

View Looking Down Structural Cable, Big Picture, Cable Hanging Between Towers

Downwind View, Airfoil Entering Helical Blade Inverter

Aerial View, Airfoil Entering Helical Blade Inverter

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