Good and bad bets: new wind technologies rated

Last update: August 14, 2014

How do specific new wind energy innovations and products stack up? This post looks at eighteen technologies and companies that have been in the press or otherwise crossed my desk recently and assesses whether they are good bets or not. For context, one of the technologies with the most red flags is getting the most press. Can you guess which one it is before reading further?

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In the companion piece to this post, Invest carefully; wind energy ‘innovations’ are rarely kosher, fourteen red flags are identified related to technology, business model and marketing practices. Presented here is a summary of assessments based on the red flag questions.

1. Uprise Energy STAR

This product and company gets zero red flags. The adaptive rotors for small wind generation are a direct outreach of prior experience on adaptive marine parafoils, they are fully tested by Sandia, they work for the range of winds they claims and they’ve got a solid business niche targeted. They get far less press than many of the other products and companies on this list, which is a shame.

The odds: Good bet

2. Skysails Power

Image courtesy of http://www.skysails.info

This product and company has one red flag in that its target is to supplant offshore wind farms, but its technology has substantial differentiators that make this a possibility. The company has a track record of automated kite-based power systems for supplementing diesels powering cargo ships. the The primarily water-based usage model as well as the (relatively) simple fabric parasail eliminates most of the potential liabilities.

The odds: Reasonable bet

3. John Dabiri’s VAWT array

Image courtesy John Dabiri's 2010 study results.

Image courtesy John Dabiri’s 2010 study results.

While the concept of an array of VAWTs being of greater effectiveness scores five red stars on in my assessment criteria, a close reading of the published papers puts it in the more reasonable bet category, above other technologies with fewer red flags. Dabiri is a primary reason; as a MacArthur Genius Grant recipient and careful researcher, he is almost flawless in his findings of value to date. His only failing is in comparisons to HAWTs, where after extended discussion we agreed to disagree with his interpretation that all of the unused land between HAWTs should be counted when making land use comparisons; this premise is debunked here. This has good potential to be a valuable niche addition to wind energy capture and use. Note that there is no commercial product here at present, but the concepts are patented and serious research of the approach is being undertaken.

The odds: Reasonable bet

4. Altaeros

This product gets two red flags and a partial due to its use of increasingly expensive and rare Helium as the lifting agent. It is targeting a niche market, it’s not making claims that are too extravagant and it has bright people behind it.  (Arguably the Magenn MARS was the better implementation of a lighter-than-air-generator for the same target niche as it was simpler, lighter, less complex and required less cable, but it failed most likely due to poor contacts and business promotion).

The odds: Risky bet

5. Makani Power

Screen Shot 2014-04-29 at 8.17.41 AMRecently acquired by Google, this product and company get three red flags and a partial due to the likely challenge of their complex, hard-bodied wings falling into the sea and being difficult to retrieve; advantage to the fabric Skysails in that regard. The intellectual capital behind the control systems is likely more interesting than the technology as a pragmatic wind generation device and with the unfortunate death of the founder it was likely that Google was able to capitalize on its existing stake with a low additional investment. For my full assessment, please read: Google’s Makani airborne wind generator flies a bit lower when you look at it closely

The odds: bad bet except for Google, who got PR and intellectual capital

6. TwingTec

Image courtesy EMPA.

This product only gets four red flags, but it’s suggested another potential red flag that might push it further down the rankings: it’s mostly just an academics’ side project for now.  The wing seems to use an air-pumped lightweight beam simply because it’s a technology from the same academic centre, not because it’s particularly advantageous.  And the principals haven’t figured out, as Makani’s and SkySails have, that it’s only going to work in offshore conditions.

The odds: Bad bet

7. Harvistor Windsilo

Screen capture from Harvistor Vimeo http://vimeo.com/53288409

Screen capture from Harvistor Vimeo http://vimeo.com/53288409

This product gets four to five red flags. The Swiss website hasn’t been updated since 2010. The Canadian website and Vimeo make it clear that the ‘innovative’ product which was launched in 2006 is still a prototype receiving R&D funding, now from the Canadian government. The only referenced sale looks like a prototype assessment with a potentially interesting market niche. The market niches referenced in the Swiss site are all over the map with none of them appearing to be any more than projected uses; there’s no clarity of market niche. While they aren’t pretending to exceed Betz’ Limit, they are claiming that they are 65% more efficient than their competitors, which I’m sure many existing and defunct VAWT peddlers such as Windspire would dispute. All of their published results are based on computer simulations. No independent testing has been published or asserted as being done.

The odds: Bad bet

8. EcoWhisper

Image courtesy of http://www.resau.com.au

This product rates five red flags. It’s been sold on from its developers to other vendors, but remains closer to an old fashioned farm windmill than a modern wind turbine. It certainly is quieter but that’s as much due to its inability to turn more rapidly than the wind is pushing on it as for anything design features, but it is not more efficient and is much larger and heavier for the diminished generation capacity.

The odds: bad bet

9. McCamley Wind Turbine

This product is a real mishmash, and rates five red flags. This appears to be the only wind generation technology that takes the consistently failed idea of shrouding or compression and applies it a vertical axis Darrius style wind turbine, which is an adequate VAWT, but will consistently generate less electricity in most wind speeds than a comparable HAWT. They add self-adjusting blades — which should be read as additional complexity, weight and cost — and then claim they are going to add solar panels to it, although they haven’t done so outside of renderings. Much lipstick; still a pig.

The odds: bad bet

10. EWICON electrostatic generator

The EWICON concept is a neat bit of research, but rates five red flags as a practical technology. Published research puts its net efficiency below that of Savonius wind turbines, which are the worst generators in the world, and that’s assuming free, clean, water under pressure in places where temperatures don’t dip below zero. Demonstration devices exist in exactly two places, and it’s begging for more research dollars as of writing.

The odds: bad bet

11. Archimedes Liam F1

liamf1urbanwindturbineThis device rates six red flags. It will likely take eight times the material to generate the same electricity as a HAWT instead of the usual four times of normal VAWTs. It won’t scale well due to the wind load and cantilevering. The company claims 200W at 5 m/s winds, which are far above average wind speed in cities. Unlike VAWTs it is much more directionally oriented so won’t do well in turbulence normally found in cities. Patents claim it can be used in a gas or a liquid, and for generation or propulsion; the lack of focus doesn’t bode well.

The odds: bad bet

12. Ogin (nee  FloDesign)

Image courtesy Ogin Energy.

Image courtesy Ogin Energy.

This product and company score a solid six red flags, and after racking up $50 M USD in investments according to reports over the past six years, have produced only a couple of prototypes that did not meet expectations. They are attempting to get a tiny test site of 100 KW machines operational in the Altamont Pass area but are having challenges because they only want to compare themselves to 30-40 year old devices, not modern ones. And apparently New Zealand has bought into the concept as well. Their marketing is mixed, in some places claiming the shroud is a diffusor which allows closer spacing, and in others claiming it massively enhances performance, which isn’t what testing showed.

The odds: bad bet

13. exoPower

wp96d547b5_05_06This device which racked up eight red flags appears to be a sincere but misguided effort by a garage tinkerer and some green-focussed sales and marketing folks. It consists of the worst form of wind generation device, a basic drag Savonius effort, mounted on a rail at the circumference instead of attached to an axle in the middle. It is is massively limited in terms of output, can’t scale effectively outward due to greater increase of materials hence weight and cost than generation output and can’t be easily put higher in the air at any scale where the wind is clean and strong due to the design of the thing. The concept of putting sails on a ring gets reinvented in the wind energy space every couple of years, as does the Savonius wind turbine. As usual, they spend a reasonable amount of time pointing out the relatively non-existent failings of three-blade HAWTs in their material.

The odds: bad bet

14. SheerWind Invelox

Image courtesy http://www.gizmag.com

This product and company score nine out of fourteen red flags. They’ve racked up a couple of million in grants and investment as well, and are still getting press as if they were somehow promoting something that hadn’t been failed 90 years ago per Robert W. Righter’s book “Wind Energy in America: A History.” And when a critique is written, they merely attack the author.

The odds: bad bet

15. Identified Flying Object (IFO) Energy

Image courtesy IFO-Energy

Image courtesy IFO-Energy

This pure concept gets nine red flags. It consists of nothing but unrelated and unproven conceptual technologies thrown together under a rendering of a powered glider. The company does not appear to understand weight-to-lift ratios, drag to glide path challenges, inconsistency of lift conditions or the realities of conventional wind energy, but does have an appeal for investment dollars on their webpage. The lack of reality regarding conventional wind energy with lack of reality regarding their technology is a very bad combination.

The odds: terrible bet

16. Strawscraper

There’s too little information for this throwaway architectural rendering and conceptual wind generator to receive a full rating. Of the questions that can be answered it receives four red flags and a bonus of five for being completely fictitious outside of a rendering. If built, it would be an expensive aesthetic gesture that might be persuaded to generate some power to offset its costs.

The odds: terrible bet

17. Saphon Saphonian

Image courtesy of http://www.saphonenergy.com

This relatively new entrant scores an amazing nine red flags, yet recently was shortlisted for an African Innovation Award, and managed to convince TED to put them on stage in 2012. They continue to receive more press than most other entrants on the list combined.

The odds: Don’t bet other peoples’ money on this

18. Windstrument

Courtesy Windstrument

This product has managed a remarkable ten red flags, supplanting the Saphon at the bottom of the list of wind innovations. It’s a torque generator claiming 90% efficiency gains over HAWTs designed by a guy who was in a cool sailboat in the 1980s and they claim infinite expandability.

The odds: don’t bet other people’s money on it


There are a lot of wind harvesting gizmos that grace the pages of environmental, technology and other news sites, but none of them so far have come close to being as effective and efficient at harvesting wind energy as the three-blade, horizontal-axis wind turbine. The red flag questions are far from sufficient to predict eventual success, but they will help you rapidly weed out technologies that just aren’t likely to go anywhere.

Note: If you would like to see another wind technology rated in this way, or would like to dispute the rating provided, please feel free to contact me directly or via the comments section of this page (but pay attention to my stringent moderation criteria).

Additional resources:

  1. How effective are wind turbines compared to other sources of energy?
  2. Are airborne wind turbines a plausible source of cheap clean energy?
  3. Why aren’t vertical-axis wind turbines more popular?
  4. What is the most efficient design for a wind generator?

41 comments

  1. It’s frankly astonishing that some of those ones at the bottom of the list can get so much money when many clean technology investments struggle to get anything.

    Do you have an opinion on whale power? It seemed pretty promising to me because it didn’t require a radical reworking, but rather could be fitted in with most other wind technologies, but the fact that there have been no updates on their website for over two years certainly suggests to me something is badly wrong.

    1. They started out with a premise of noise reduction through more complex and hard-to-manufacture blades. I ran across them in 2009 initially I believe when Margaret Atwood asked my opinion. They evolved their pitch when it became apparent that noise really wasn’t a sufficient differentiator; as wind turbines have become much larger they have actually maintained or reduced noise emissions and are spaced further apart, so the actual noise levels are lower.

      They claim all sorts of things without numbers and without releasing the third party results from the PEI test site that I was able to find.

      Their product is much harder to build and tune in different scales than they would have you believe. A wind turbine tip at 200 mph max would have much different properties than the blade near the nacelle, and so the tubercles would have to be tuned the entire span of the blade for multiple wind speeds. This is non-trivial. Creating aerodynamically tuned blades is non-trivial now. The advantages were likely offset by much greater cost of manufacturing and odd harmonics and inefficiencies at different wind speeds.

      Biomimetics requires adherence to similar physical characteristics in order for them to work. 200 mph through air is quite radically different than perhaps 20 mph through water.

      The principles do not have a background in wind energy. The pitch is for the product, not a niche and understood business plan.

      Several red flags. It’s understandable that they are moribund. Their technology would make an appealing lower-noise fan — potentially — with a good marketing hook to whales. It’s probably licensed here and there.

  2. Mike & Stephen,

    What do you both think about the Aerogenesis and other turbine firms that have been spun off (sorry) from the research hub at the University of Newcastle?

    http://www.newcastle.edu.au/school/engineering/research/wind-energy-group/online-resources.html

    1. Strike one: Aerogenesis Australia’s new website is currently under construction. Copyright © 2011 Aerogenesis Australia Pty. Ltd.

      Strike two: FLOWTRACK WIND TURBINE INFORMATION – Our flagship product, the 5 metre turbine is currently out of production after a decade of poor economics for small wind turbines that saw some companys close, and some move offshore.

      Other than that, they are two-blade small-scale HAWTs, additional entrants in a relatively crowded market and competing with three-blade HAWTS. Three of five top selling small wind turbines are three-blade (of the other two, one is a two-blade HAWT, one is a fairly aesthetically pleasing Darrieus VAWT.)

      Small wind is an unforgiving space. It requires more maintenance than solar panels, is much closer to houses than utility-scale HAWTs and as a result tends to be noisier. The economics of small wind generation result in a fairly high price per KWh, especially when compared with conservation.

      My general principle is conserve locally, generate at scale.

  3. Brother · · Reply

    On the concept promoted by SheerWind, you wrote “..f they were somehow promoting something that hasn’t been failed 50 years ago.” would you be kind to post the source that this was done 50 years ago? it would be good to know. this tells me either you have spies in SheerWind and you know all the details, or you have no clue what you are talking about. let’s see which. The source of your claim will tell the story.
    Also, could you share with us how you know they have taken grant money and investment money?
    I am one on the investors and not aware of this claim. Do you know something I don’t know?
    It would be good to share your source or stop spreading this nonsense information.

    1. “In the 1920s, a 70-foot-long ducted wind turbine nicknamed the “blunderbuss” was built in the California mountains, but it didn’t survive that inventor’s financial downfall, according to Robert W. Righter’s book “Wind Energy in America: A History.””

      http://www.startribune.com/business/181600151.html

      See also Paul Gipe’s Wind Works article on ducted fan technology of various types. http://www.wind-works.org/cms/index.php?id=400&tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=150&cHash=8ea0d1e60e66fc6eb35690084ec64394

      I’ll need to correct my point. It’s actually 90 year old technology. I appreciate you asking me to provide references, as it uncovered a factual error I made, although not one in Sheerwind’s favour.

      Regarding funding:

      http://tcbmag.com/Industries/Energy/SheerWind’s-New-Spin-on-Clean-Energy-September-201

      https://angel.co/sheerwind

      http://www.fastcoexist.com/mba/1682082/this-strange-looking-funnel-may-be-the-future-of-wind-power-or-not

      Please don’t blame the messenger for the bad news. Instead, ask very tough questions of the people you are giving your money to, and do your due diligence.

  4. AeroFox · · Reply

    So let me get this right, somehow, the “Invelox” has found a way to arrest Kutta-Joukouski condition on flow over a foil, and 2), construct a pressure-less (i.e passive vacuum) and friction-less duct geometry.

    Any increase in theoretical Cp(max) is offset by the exponential drag increase – flow separation in the massive duct and housing strucutures. As the aspect ratio increases so to does flow separation, boundary layer growth, internal mbar (pressure). Hard tp believe that the Invelox can passively increase fluid velocity 15x through the ductwork unless they have solved for 1 & 2, under unsteady flow conditions, even steady flow. Also, the Cp reference area is the massive 3-4 lobed intake swept area, projecting above the duct – tubing. That is the reference area-not the turbine diameter. The “600,000,000”x increase in performance should fall back to earth after the correct reference area is computed. The Invelox design truly has a “mouth bigger than its a#!.

    @MikeBarnard- any references to back up your claims about FDWT turbines “not meeting expectations”.?

    You missed one to review:

    http://www.poduhvat-hydrokinetics.co.uk/.

    1. Excellent hard science inputs as always. Much appreciated. Re FDWT yes, in researching this I found the reference. I will add it.

  5. Mr. Barnard, you represent the rare breath of fresh air in helping to expose the Invelox. I’ve been warning folks for months, including the FBI and Minnesota’s Attorney General’s office. Keep in mind, please, that investors’ money can purchase marketing, and the circle grows. I’ve watched and warned media outlets in MN, along with others this person has apparently used to grow his circle. None of the media I contacted retracted their stories, nor were any willing to adjust their stories with follow-up. Worse, this fellow behind Invelox has been caught trying to influence the Minneapolis Star Trib blog…another imposter role. Look back here on this blog; has the same thing happened?

  6. pyrroho · · Reply

    very simple way to look at all of this stuff. what is it’s power density (annual kWh/m^2)?

    Makani, alteros, flodesign/Orin, etc. < than a hawt. much less than a hawt so pretty much useless, but at least these are from actual aerodynamicists albeit ones that should stick to designing jet cowls and sails. same with the vawt's.

    Sheerwind though brings it to a whole new level of boondoggle. Let's assume that somehow 150 years of empirical diffuser research is wrong and your diffuser can be smaller than your intake (refer to any paper on diffuser wind tunnel testing and you will see this is a bs), how in the hell can you then get the flow down a pipe and around a bend in the pipe where according to simple gas law and gravity the gas will be denser at the bottom than the top (see how a convective loop works. does not flow in the dense direction). It's magic Dorothy.

    Have to respect just how dumb investors, especially VC's, are. Above you have Google, Kleiner Perkins and most of the SF crowd.

    Flodesign also got an additional $13 million from the government without a single supporting piece of empirical data.

    Our efforts on clean energy are a joke both on wind and solar.

    1. Ogin/FloDesign apparently just got another $55m from NZ government. oi.

    2. Steve Jones · · Reply

      Comment did not meet moderation policy.

  7. Steve Jones · · Reply

    “the consistently failed idea of shrouding or compression”

    Really? Can you show us any scientific evidence that this is a “consistently failed idea”? Are you serious?

    So if you build two large buildings that have sides at 45 degrees to each other, and they are, say, ten metres apart at their closest point, you don’t think the wind will HOWL through that narrow gap, and be much faster than the normal wind speed?

    1. Consistently failed in terms of creating a better wind turbine. My apologies, I had assumed that was obvious from context. The first attempt was 90 years ago. Every attempt that has reached prototype stage has not achieved anything near what they thought and claimed it would. Invelox and Ogin are the current poster children for this.

      1. Steve Jones · ·

        So you can’t show us any scientific evidence, I take it?
        Mounting the turbine itself at ground level is VERY useful for maintenance. Using a smaller turbine, rather than a large one, is much cheaper. The funnelling structure will be under much less stress than the turbine itself, so it will last longer. I’ve been reading laughable comments on other sites against the Sheerwind turbine, such as that 2MPH winds don’t hold enough energy, blah blah blah, from idiots who can’t even understand that the wind speeds up before it reaches the turbine, just unbelievably stupid.
        Mike Barnard, please show us some scientific papers we can look at, which show that concentrating the wind by using large (i.e. at least ten times bigger than the diameter of the turbine, not tiny little ‘ducts’) concentrators, doesn’t work, isn’t cost effective, etc. I sincerely doubt that ANY proper research has been done on this.
        I’d love to see what the ‘blunderbuss’ looks like, but apparently we are supposed to just accept that because the inventor had a ‘financial downfall’, the turbine was no good. This is laughable at best. Disingenous at worst. Smoke and mirrors.

      2. There is no great conspiracy to keep good technology from the market, quite the opposite in fact. The market is a great sieve, and inventions that don’t achieve better results at lower cost don’t make it through the sieve. Doing significant multi factorial analysis of failed technologies is only fun some of the time, where it serves a purpose. For example, try reading my airborne wind energy material.

        And it’s obvious the two references I provided you didn’t follow. Please understand your apparent devotion to a failed branch of wind generation isn’t particularly interesting to me unless you show me the evidence. Your argument requires extraordinary proof, not mine. History and testing haven’t been kind to this technology and I don’t choose to spend enormous amount of time explaining why. If you disagree, find evidence yourself.

  8. Steve Jones · · Reply

    “In the 1920s, a 70-foot-long ducted wind turbine nicknamed the “blunderbuss” was built in the California mountains, but it didn’t survive that inventor’s financial downfall”

    AND?

    Did it work? What was the cost per kilowatt hour? Its not surviving “the inventor’s financial downfall” tells us NOTHING about it! Is this the best evidence you’ve got?

    1. Ah, I see. You want to explain in detail every failed technology in wind energy instead of writing a relatively brief and readable article covering a lot of ground. How about I give you this reference from Paul Gipe instead, to all of the writing he’s done on the subject: http://www.wind-works.org/cms/index.php?id=117

  9. Steve Jones · · Reply

    Most of those ducted turbines are nothing like the Sheerwind. Is there any scientific research that shows the Sheerwind won’t work? Obviously all that matters is cost per kw/hr, but the wind industry is full of blind followers who would rather stick to an expensive ‘traditional’ design, than even investigate new designs. Such astounding arrogance.

    Tell me, how much of the wind that passes through the disc of a 520 foot diameter turbine, actually turns the blades?

    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/01/28/3212831/worlds-largest-wind-turbine/

    The larger the turbine, the slower it turns, but the average wind speed remains the same (obviously it’s totally unaffected by how flow or fast any turbine turns), the density of the air remains the same, so what effect does most of the air which passes through that HUGE disc have on the blades? Answer: NOTHING. It passes clean through those HUGE gaps between the blades and cannot effect them.

    Don’t tell me, the air that isn’t touching the blades has an effect on them – only if the turbine is much, much smaller. Let’s imagine the blades are one mile in length. What would the RPM be? Much, much slower. You can’t seriously believe that the air that passes through a space that is only intercepted by a blade once every ten seconds (or whatever) is somehow having an effect on the blade, for 90% of the time.

    Did any of you ever think about this? Of course not. It’s too simple.

    1. It isn’t up to people to point to all of the papers on the realities of laminar flow and pressure gradients, and historical tests by NASA etc, but for a brief overview of the physics challenges, look at the comment by Aerofox elsewhere on this page. It’s up to Sheerwind to produce a prototype, get it independently tested and get it on the market, just like anyone else. It’s been failing to do that long enough that it is conspicuously obvious that they aren’t achieving even modest gains to offset the costs of the additional material required, never mind the simply extraordinary claims they are making. They have managed to get a ton of money from private investors, millions so far via these extraordinary claims with no proof of any kind. They are not being hindered in any way from moving toward commercialization except by their product and themselves. Like Saphon, I question their sincerity.

      As for your comments on utility-scale HAWTs, it’s clear that your understanding of the technology and its LCOE is not particularly crisp. There are 250,000-300,000 of them in over 100 countries because they do work effectively, efficiently and economically. They have been installed under every taxation, market and governmental system in the world. Literally millions of people have assessed the technology and cost cases to arrive at this situation. There is no conspiracy that accounts for this, just a technology that is effective enough to have developed a global supply chain. And there are extraordinary numbers of peer-reviewed papers you could look at which would help your realize your mistakes. I would suggest looking at work from UDelft for example.

    2. In the event you missed the more robust analysis of Sheerwind I published recently.

      http://cleantechnica.com/2014/07/08/invelox-ducted-turbine-latest-long-line-failures/

  10. Steve Jones · · Reply

    By the way, I agree with most of what Paul Gipe says, and even more – just about ALL wind turbines are a waste of money, cannot generate electricity at competitive prices, and are hugely subsidised. Read ‘The Wind Farm Scam’, an excellent book that covers everything.

  11. whitefox3 · · Reply

    In my opinion, Invelox by Sheer wind does not work, nor will it work. And, looking back through its development history, one will see radically changed designs which in my opinion reek of red herrings right from the beginning.

    The inventor of Invelox has publicly said he welcomes dissent, which is a good thing, because, frankly, the concept doesn’t work. I myself am the inventor of a “shrouded” VAWT, which actually is designed to go on building tops in better wind zones, which is why it perturbs me that someone is talking about doing the same thing my turbine is designed to do–but has only a hoax to back up his claims. I don’t know who Steve Jones is, but my guess is that he is attached in some way to Invelox. There is no other reason I can think of why anyone would come to this blog to defend and make claims for the Invelox.

    If anyone wants to see a true, double-enclosed, shrouded VAWT which can be put in building tops, feel welcome to see my own recently patented design at http://www.hallmarkemporium.com While there, go to the “Invelox page” to see how the inventor of this folly is an imposter, even on a blog. Here too?

    This sounds like a joke, but quite frankly the best thing this Dr. of Engineering can probably do is to purchase my own VAWT so he can have something real to offer his hopeful investors. I wonder how far could I go if I made false claims to both media and investors?

    On the surface, the Invelox idea seems to be working, but in my opinion it is a deck of cards waiting to collapse. In my opinion, Twin Cities, MN, media were influenced with ill-gotten money, and they ran stories about Invelox, but wouldn’t retract them after my warnings.

    On the other hand, I haven’t been able to get TC media to take even a tiny peek at my own invention, which I believe will be truly disruptive to the wind industry. My invention will allow wind turbines to go in communities, safely, with no whirling blades; my invention is real, while the Invelox is a huge PIPE-dream.

  12. I’m interested to hear Barnard’s thoughts on the current status of Sheer Wind, April 2014; Prototype up and running since Nov 2012 in Chaska MNN, independently verified field data by MIT and College of NY, average 300% improvement in capacity over sample 8 day period. The comment someone made that less dense wind flowing down and up against more dense wind, not being workable, seems to be countered by the results of this tested and verified prototype. The company has begun accepting orders based on the results. Its first licensee, in NZ, makes the point on its website “Invelox is not a product, its a project”. To achieve the flow dynamics that will allow for the increase in wind velocity to the ground-level turbine, custom design and manufacture of components appears to be required on a case-by-case basis.
    Obviously the comments from Steve Jones don’t help the cause, arrogant and rude. The allegations of subterfuge etc against the company founder are troubling obviously. I am interested in this subject as I’ve recently agreed to become involved in a sales/referral consulting capacity. So want to know what I’m representing is actually working. Video evidence from the prototype facility seem to bear out the claims of low cut-in speed and increased up-time.

    1. Give me the data and material or links to it and I’ll be able to give you a better opinion. The last stuff I saw from them they were comparing apples and kumquats and claiming that they were transmuting lead into gold. If they have detailed and as you say independent verification of results then at least some of the BS can be strained out. I’m pretty sure that there is still BS there, by the way.

    2. AeroFox · · Reply

      So now this organization is claiming a 300% improvement in “capacity” per your comment. What happened to the 600x improvement in power output and/or efficiency. forgive me, but I lost track of these astronomical claims.
      so pls clarify,
      1. Is it a 600% increase in conversion efficiency?
      2. Is it a 600% increase in power output compared to a wind machine of comparably swept area,
      3. Or is it now a 300% increase in capacity factor?

      Which claim is it? and what is the conventional machine that this “new” design performance is being compared to? The video never actually shows the wind speed entering the intake btw, only tiny and I mean tiny props spinning in the tube.

  13. […] is featured in a couple articles by blogger Mike Barnard: an article on dodgy wind turbines and a rating of new wind technologies (in which it is judged a “bad […]

  14. […] Incidentally, the same holds true for wind turbines. The horizontal-axis, three-blade machines we now have are the cheapest source of renewable electricity and will remain so. No, New York Times, we’re not going to have these dinky vertical-axis things on buildings everywhere. And no, we are not going to havewind funnels. […]

  15. Timothy · · Reply

    Your assessments are excellent. Break through concepts are fun to entertain, but it is shame that so many ‘break throughs” are eating up investment capital, and worse, leaving a bad after taste for wind. I would suggest Peter Jamieson’s book, “Innovation in wind turbine design” for your readers. He lays down the basics of assessing wind technology in an easy read with simple back-of-the-napkin calculations.

    @Barnard, I am currently assessing an investment opportunity for a new taller tower technology focused on industry scale turbines at 120+ m. Naturally, there have been many different concepts proposed. The ones that seem to attract the most attention are the bolted-steel towers (more of an evolutionary development if you ask me), the slender space frame tower (i.e. GE’s), the Timber tower, and variations of concrete tower concepts. The precast concrete pedestal tower concept (i.e. Advanced Tower Systems design) appears to be among the most popular. What are your thoughts on assessing a business model related to the development of new tower technology (that obeys the laws of physics)? Go to market strategy? Also, do you see a sustainable market for the pedestal concepts, or do you see them as simply filling the gap until, for example, the space frame tower is more mature?

  16. Paul · · Reply

    Hi, thanks for the website and putting them all together with ratings! Did you review the Kean Wind Turbine yet? and if not can you put something about in this post? From your questions to ask, seems to throw up a few red flags?

    http://www.keanwindturbines.com/efficiency.php

    Thanks.

    1. I haven’t written up anything on the Kean device because they haven’t been getting any press to speak of. If they do they’ll be in for a shellacking. It’s a return to old farm wind mills used for pumping water, a pure torque device with no aerodynamic force component. Not sure how they calculated their power curve but their claims of output are absurd and would require breaking the laws of physics.

  17. Jeff Lindstrom · · Reply

    I’d be curious on this variation that was published on the GizMag site. Their video was posted on YouTube, and the page had links to a simpler version that doesn’t require water recollection and reuse (it just has to be placed near a free, ample water source), but the concept was originally developed in the 1970s, so I am curious why it hasn’t been developed (or debunked here).

    I’m new to this, so I am not up on the technologies involved, but it appears to be a variation of the ducted units with an active assist (making the air at the top of the tower heavier by adding water to it so that it can push out the hotter and drier air at the bottom of the tower).

    http://www.gizmag.com/solar-wind-energy-downdraft-tower/32607/

    1. Energy towers in various guises are dealt with in a question and set of answers on Quora here: http://qr.ae/NhcGh. My answer is top of the list.

  18. robert olsen · · Reply

    mike, any thoughts on the viability of Kean Wind Turbines, based in western NY?

    1. Yeah. They’ve reinvented the farm water pump wind mill. It’s a simple torque-only device with no aerodynamic lift component to maximize output. As such, it will likely be lower output than eggbeater VAWTs.

      And of course it won’t scale well and will have serious problems in big winds.

  19. […] that’s a bit of a cakewalk.  All of the wind energy innovations listed in my post on Good and bad bets: new wind technologies rated will generate electricity as […]

  20. […] that’s a bit of a cakewalk. All of the wind energy innovations listed in my post on Good and bad bets: new wind technologies rated will generate electricity as […]

  21. Mike, How about the WindBelt from http://www.humdingerwind.com/?

    1. The company is dead and the technology never made it to market. It’s an interesting phenomenon but produced ludicrously small amounts of electricity and didn’t scale because wind just goes around obstacles, not through them. I don’t list it because it is dead and not getting any hype but I do get asked about it occasionally so I might add it simply for that reason.

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