Monthly Archives: August 2011

Top 5 Recent Innovations in Wind Power

1. The Wind Lens Turbine from Kyushu University

Another improvement on conventional wind turbines: this year, scientists from Kyushu University found a way to not only triple the electrical output of a wind turbine, but also decrease its noise level and reduce the risks to avian populations, simply by using a “wind lens” in place of traditional turbine blades.

2. Airborne Wind Turbines

In the works since around 2007, airborne wind turbines would take advantage of the consistency and higher speeds of high-altitude air currents. There are a number of companies researching different models of airborne wind turbines, including Joby EnergyMakani PowerSky WindPower and Magenn Power.

3. Vibro-wind Panels

In 2010, scientists from Cornell University developed wind power installations small (and cheap) enough to place on your roof, so called “vibro-wind panels.” They work by converting vibrations from even the “gentlest of breezes” into electricity.

4. Smart “shape-shifting” turbine blades

in 2009, scientists from Purdue University developed turbine blades that can quickly change shape and adapt to wind conditions to help maximize the amount of electricity generated while ensuring longer life spans for wind turbines.

5. Vertical Axis Wind Turbines

Canadian company VBINE Energy has commercialized the Vertical Axis Wind Turbine (VAWT), which can be installed in more urban and industrial settings. The VAWT is a ring-shaped generator that can encircle any cylinder and rotate around the structure with the aid of wind-catching blades.

Stuart Licht does it again!

Elizabeth Svoboda over at Discover Magazine just posted about a new way to pull CO2 out of our atmosphere that doesn’t involve dumping limestone into the ocean, brought to you by Stuart Licht, the George Washington University Professor of Chemistry who just came up last year with a revolutionary CO2-free method of producing iron that would save us from the estimated 2.4 billion tons of carbon dioxide emitted by the commercial iron industry each year. This guy seriously deserves an award.

Licht’s latest development is the STEP (Solar Thermal Electrochemical Production) process, which uses an electrolysis cell powered by solar energy to break down a carbon dioxide particle. Electric current is used to split CO2 into oxygen and solid carbon or carbon monoxide, which can then be used to make plastics and fuels (you can read more about the STEP process here).

How much CO2 would this process take out of the equation?

“If he could construct STEP solar arrays dispersed across 4 percent of the Sahara, he would be able to convert 92 billion tons of carbon dioxide into solid carbon each year. At that rate, he could eliminate one-tenth of all the carbon dioxide released since the Industrial Revolution in a single year.”

Somebody needs to connect Licht with the folks over at DESERTEC.

Just to give you an idea, 4 percent of the Sahara amounts to 360,000 sq km, or a field 600 km by 600 km (it’s about 660 km from Boston to Baltimore), which is less than 0.0003% of the Saharan country of Chad.