Wind turbines are one of the most promising sources of large-scale renewable power. Wind power doesn’t produce any pollutants, and unlike water or fuel resources, wind is literally an endless source of energy. However, wind farms do require a substantial amount of space, which is why a much more efficient design like the “Wind Lens” could make wind energy cheaper and more practical.
Developed by researchers at Kyushu University’s Research Institute for Applied Mechanics (RIAM), the wind lens design utilizes a curved housing that encircles the blades of a wind turbine. The ring is comprised of an inlet shroud, diffuser, and brim that work together to create a low-pressure pocket behind the turbine when wind passes around the ring. The resulting suction can triple the effective wind speed that drives the turbine blades.
Increasing the energy generated from a single turbine has the potential to make wind power even cheaper than nuclear energy, and wind turbines carry none of the risks associated with nuclear power plants. Their primary drawbacks are interference with wildlife (such as migrating flocks of birds) and noise; fortunately, the Wind Lens design makes turbines quieter as well as more efficient.
But could wind turbines really make a substantial contribution to US energy demand? Absolutely. A recent MNN article by Karl Burkart breaks down the numbers in more detail, but the bottom line is this: if improved turbines like the Wind Lens were installed in just 20% of America’s “high wind potential” areas, they could provide all the power consumed in the US.
Prototypes are already being tested at Kyushu University. And the developers are already thinking ahead to the possibilities for large-scale implementation, including floating offshore wind farms far out to sea that could take advantage of uninterrupted air currents without competing for space on land.