×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

New Generator Boosts Wind Turbine Efficiency 50%

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the reap-the-whirlwind dept.

Power 315

MagnetDroid writes "A startup company based in Vancouver has developed a new kind of generator that could harvest much more energy from the wind. The design could not only lower the cost of wind turbines but increase their power output by 50 percent to as much as 100 percent, in some locations. Normally, when wind speeds drop, a turbine's engine becomes less efficient. The new engine, from ExRo Technologies, runs efficiently over a wider range of conditions. The design replaces a mechanical transmission with what amounts to an electronic one. Magnets attached to a rotating shaft create a current, but individual coils can be turned on and off electronically at different wind speeds." The company will begin field-testing a small, 5KW wind turbine by early next year.

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

315 comments

PICS OR GTFO (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25806553)

PICS OR GTFO VAPORWARE

Re:PICS OR GTFO (3, Informative)

philspear (1142299) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807195)

Right, because pictures are proof. Just like the phantom console, which had pictures (http://gamedeveloper.digitalmedianet.com/articles/viewarticle.jsp?id=19801) and is totally real right now. In fact, I'm playing the invisible version as I'm typing this!

Re:PICS OR GTFO (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807575)

It is real.
It never went to market.
The keyboard did, and is a pretty good keyboard from what I hear.

Re:PICS OR GTFO (1)

Redfeather (1033680) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807767)

Never having gone to market still means it didn't exist. Concept devices and mockups don't count for most people.

But at least you've got a cool keyboard.

Re:PICS OR GTFO (1)

philspear (1142299) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807925)

Yes, the keyboard was real, but of course that was not what the phantom console was supposed to be and was not what the pictures were of. That the company managed to take all that startup money and produce a keyboard with a stand is... well better than nothing I suppose, but the phantom console remains firmly in the land of vaporware. Or maybe just plain fraud.

Re:PICS OR GTFO (4, Interesting)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807229)

He has a point, even if 'pics' won't make much difference the vapourware will stick. There is this thing called Betz' law and it is pretty specific about how much energy you can extract from any moving medium.

This perpetual motion machine just keeps getting f (-1)

qoncept (599709) | more than 5 years ago | (#25806555)

"The design could not only lower the cost of wind turbines but increase their power output by 50 percent to as much as 100 percent, in some locations."

100%? Why stop there?!

Oh, and, uh.. why is this whole article about windmills? Couldn't these improvements in generator efficiency be used across the board?

Re:This perpetual motion machine just keeps gettin (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25806647)

Since when is an increase of efficiency by 100% impossible?

For arguments sake, let's say that current wind turbines are 10% efficient. This new turbine is therefore 15% to 20% efficient.

But will this make home wind turbines effective purchases? I doubt it.

I hope the design can be retrofitted into existing turbines, since there are so many deployed now.

Re:This perpetual motion machine just keeps gettin (1)

trjonescp (954259) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807927)

I hope the design can be retrofitted into existing turbines, since there are so many deployed now.

According to the article, it should be possible:

The next step will be to install larger, megawatt-scale generators in existing wind turbines.

Re:This perpetual motion machine just keeps gettin (4, Insightful)

Stile 65 (722451) | more than 5 years ago | (#25806663)

No.

The generator is more efficient in changing wind conditions. When the wind is faster, it turns on more coils to provide greater mechanical resistance and takes more energy out of the wind. When the wind is slower, the turbine can still run because the generator can be switched to take less energy out of the wind.

This isn't a consideration for regular power plants because the amount of energy sent to the turbine is well-controlled and doesn't vary with time like wind speed does.

Re:This perpetual motion machine just keeps gettin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25807809)

How about a car's alternator with constantly changing RPM?

Re:This perpetual motion machine just keeps gettin (4, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#25806673)

"The design could not only lower the cost of wind turbines but increase their power output by 50 percent to as much as 100 percent, in some locations."

100%? Why stop there?!

Because, due to this having not a damn fucking thing to do with perpetual motion or snide remarks regarding such, there's only so much energy that can be extracted from the wind. Getting a 1.5x to 2x boost -- over the course of a year, meaning combining periods where the windmill was operating efficiently, and those times where it was not -- is great. I don't know why you phrased your question the way you did.

Oh, and, uh.. why is this whole article about windmills? Couldn't these improvements in generator efficiency be used across the board?

Not really. The majority of turbine generators are designed to operate at a single, optimal frequency. Wind however is by its nature variable, so to get peak efficiency across various RPMs requires some extra ingenuity. Maybe this could be applied to your car's alternator, I don't know.

Re:This perpetual motion machine just keeps gettin (1)

GeekWade (623925) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807217)

The car alternator is a great idea, but it would work in reverse. At higher engine speeds it could get by with less active coils reducing both its electrical output and mechanical resistance. Since the charging system usually only needs a fraction of the potential output. For you bass/spl junkies it could sense demand and crank up a few more coils. Damn now my wife will be fussy with me for a few weeks while I build one for my TDI...

Re:This perpetual motion machine just keeps gettin (1)

FrameRotBlues (1082971) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807303)

Actually, if they used more ideas from your car's alternator, they might get farther yet. But that's just my humble opinion.

According to TFA, this new generator uses permanent magnets on a shaft passing by coils of wire, so the magnets are always spinning, even in the slightest breeze. This isn't anything new, it's just that they're probably using IGBTs to turn the individual stator coils on or off, changing the load on the shaft.

An automotive alternator uses an electromagnet on a shaft (rotor) passing by coils of wire(stator). The amount of voltage fed to the rotor comes as a form of feedback from the regulator, which samples the battery's voltage and the alternator's output and adjusts the rotor voltage as needed. This design assumes more or less unlimited rotating force to the rotor from the engine, and that's not necessarily the case with wind generators.

I'm going to guess that the other thing that's happening here is that when this new generator is in "weak" mode, the DC power output will appear pulsed, like a square wave, so I'm sure there's going to be some more regulation electronics on the back end to get it to spit out straight DC.

Re:This perpetual motion machine just keeps gettin (1)

element-o.p. (939033) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807771)

Just out of curiousity, and I haven't RTFA yet so maybe the answer is there, but couldn't you vary the pitch of the vanes on the turbine to maintain a constant RPM in varying wind conditions, much the way a constant speed propeller on an airplane works?

There would still be a range of wind speeds for which this would work, i.e., too little wind and the propeller will stall before reaching the optimal RPM as you keep increasing the blade pitch, but it seems like it would work better across a wider variety of wind speeds without requiring the complexity of this new generator.

Re:This perpetual motion machine just keeps gettin (5, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807919)

Just out of curiousity, and I haven't RTFA yet so maybe the answer is there, but couldn't you vary the pitch of the vanes on the turbine to maintain a constant RPM in varying wind conditions, much the way a constant speed propeller on an airplane works?

They do that too, even on existing windmills. The problem is that when the wind speed is low, there's nothing you can do to make it go fast, so if you wanted to maintain constant RPM in the generator, you'd have to pitch the blades to give very low speed in high winds, which is rather counter-productive. Adjusting the resistance of the generator so it works across a wider band of RPMs, combined with adjusting blade pitch, provides much better results.

Re:This perpetual motion machine just keeps gettin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25807897)

Wind however is by its nature variable, so to get peak efficiency across various RPMs requires some extra ingenuity. Maybe this could be applied to your car's alternator, I don't know.

Car's alternator uses only fraction of available power. Bad wind generators use all of available power, reducing the turbine RPM to 0 when wind speed is low. Then wind turbine has to start spinning again, which might be difficult, because it has to turn shaft that just stopped on big strong magnet pole. Sometimes wind speed is not just high enough to start spinning, so it does not starts to turn and energy is wasted.

The advantage of this design is that lots of small coils stacked slightly rotated makes a lots of smaller resistance peaks instead of several stronger resistance peaks. This allows the wind turbine to start to move easier than it would with a average generator. Design with lots of coils makes higher voltage at low RPM, making the generator more useful with low speed of wind.

Stacked up and slightly rotated coils and magnets look like great solution, but the electronic that switches coils on and off is the bonus to the efficiency at low wind speed.

--
Society: Sharing the knowledge for mutual benefit. ( anonymous meatbag )

Re:This perpetual motion machine just keeps gettin (5, Informative)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 5 years ago | (#25806685)

TFA doesn't mention specific percentage improvements in efficiency. That was kdawson's contribution, and then only in the poorly-worded headline. TFA is claiming that the overall output of a given wind turbine could be boosted by 50% or more by altering the dynamics of the generator to make it more efficient over a wider range of wind speeds.

Basically, turbines are most efficient at a given speed, and efficiency drops off for anything outside of that, whether faster or slower. This new design attempts to address that by decreasing the amount by which the efficiency drops off at different speeds. The improvement in the efficiency curve boosts overall power output, as the turbine isn't as strictly limited to a given wind speed for peak efficiency as it was before.

Re:This perpetual motion machine just keeps gettin (2, Informative)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807265)

That's called maximum power point tracking and is pretty old in concept and in actual use today in many thousands of wind and / or solar installations.

Re:This perpetual motion machine just keeps gettin (1)

edmac3 (604659) | more than 5 years ago | (#25806693)

100%? Why stop there?!

100% increase means that it doubles the original amount of power output. That's not impossible. Even tripling (200% increase) may be possible in time.

Re:This perpetual motion machine just keeps gettin (2, Interesting)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 5 years ago | (#25806713)

Ever read summaries? Most power generation is able to work with reasonably constant RPM's. Windmills don't have that luxury, so often are working at RPM's that are not optimum. This method (if it works) widens the optimum range.

Re:This perpetual motion machine just keeps gettin (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807115)

Most power generation is able to work with reasonably constant RPM's

How about brakes in an electric vehicle?

(BTW, that apostrophe is superflous)

Re:This perpetual motion machine just keeps gettin (1)

hardburn (141468) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807259)

Handled by a CVT [wikipedia.org], and they have to apply normal brakes for the last few mph anyway. Plus, regenerative braking is limited by how much charge the batteries can handle taking, not the output of the motor-generator.

Re:This perpetual motion machine just keeps gettin (1)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807353)

Thing is, these windmill generators are usually the size of a car. It would indeed be cool if they could scale it down for a car sized motor, but not sure if that's possible for them to do. Also, you have to take into account that a car bangs around a lot on potholes and such, so a non-mechanical transmission might not work well in those conditions too. Maybe though, I'm not sure of the specifics of their design.

Re:This perpetual motion machine just keeps gettin (4, Informative)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807913)

Windmills don't have that luxury, so often are working at RPM's that are not optimum. This method (if it works) widens the optimum range.

Close but not quite what they're getting at. What they're doing is increasing/decreasing the resistance to keep the windmill in the optimum RPM range over a larger range of wind speeds. So at 5 mph, the blades might spin at 20 rpm and generate 2 MW. At 15 mph, with the new system the blades still spin at 20 rpm, but now generate 5 MW. As oposed to traditional generators, where it would be spinning at 30 rpm and only generating 3 MW.

Re:This perpetual motion machine just keeps gettin (1, Insightful)

stormguard2099 (1177733) | more than 5 years ago | (#25806719)

power output != efficiency

FAIL

Re:This perpetual motion machine just keeps gettin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25807109)

if (answer.indexOf("Definition of efficiency") 0)
    exit("FAIL!");

Re:This perpetual motion machine just keeps gettin (5, Insightful)

Kintanon (65528) | more than 5 years ago | (#25806749)

That's 100% of the maximum possible output of the generator. Not 100% of the energy that comes into it being converted into electricity.

The words, they MEAN things.

Re:This perpetual motion machine just keeps gettin (1)

The Dancing Panda (1321121) | more than 5 years ago | (#25806759)

It's a transmission for wind turbines..so no? And increasing power output by 100% means doubling the power output. I don't see where perpetual motion comes into it.

Re:This perpetual motion machine just keeps gettin (4, Informative)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807493)

It's kind of like a transmission. It's actually also kind of like the reverse of the adjustable displacement engines in some vehicles.

In some cars, you have an 8-cylinder engine but can use 4, 6, or 8 cylinders at various times based on the amount of power you need to generate. It doesn't take 8 5 liters of displacement to maintain highway speeds, but getting up to them quickly may. Turning off cylinders not in use saves fuel by not burning it when it's not needed. Each cylinder only draws chemical energy to make kinetic energy as needed.

If you left all the coils engaged, you might have too much resistance to generate any electricity in light winds and too much to generate it efficiently in more moderate winds. Yet if you build a turbine specifically for only light or moderate winds, you don't get any additional power once it is maxed out.

This solution uses wind, but you can't just press down on a pedal and ask for more wind (well, you could ask, but you'd be disappointed most of the time). So what it does instead is it has a magnet-in-coil generator with separately activated coils. Each coil only draws mechanical energy to make electricity as the mechanical energy is available. The rest of the coils are left as open circuits. If there's enough wind to turn the blades with half the coils on but not all of them (or too slowly to make sense with all of them), then you just open the circuits on half the coils and the other half keep generating. Only the coils in a closed circuit generate current and present meaningful resistance to the turbine. As you have more wind, you generate more power up to the maximum. The maximum number of coils doesn't impede this turbine from generating less current when some wind is still available though, because it just disconnects the spare coils until they are needed.

Re:This perpetual motion machine just keeps gettin (2, Informative)

Tokerat (150341) | more than 5 years ago | (#25806777)

A 100% improvement in something just means it has been improved by a factor equal to what it can already do. In other words, it's twice as efficient. If you can't understand that then you might want to think twice before posting on /. /just sayin'

Re:This perpetual motion machine just keeps gettin (1, Informative)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807289)

Yep, but since the most efficient turbines are already at more than half Betz' limit this is simply not going to work.

Re:This perpetual motion machine just keeps gettin (2, Informative)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 5 years ago | (#25806805)

If 1 wind turbine can output 1MW. Increasing that to 2MW would be 100% more output. It can still only be 10% efficient, but the output has doubled. 50% more efficient would be 1.5MW. Heck it could be possible to get up to 1000% more efficient (10MW), and still be at under 50% efficiency.

Maths, don't leave home with out it.

Re:This perpetual motion machine just keeps gettin (1)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 5 years ago | (#25806983)

100%? Why stop there?!

Doubling of efficiency is not impossible!

What they are doing is known as "regenerative braking" in the automotive industry. It's hardly new. It's established technology. Likely this is the first application to wind turbines.

Wind turbines typically have mechanical transmissions and/or braking systems to maintain their peak efficiency. The problem is, mechanical transmissions have friction and equate to lower efficiencies due to frictional losses. Furthermore, this means it's likely the gearing of a mechanical mechanism is less likely to actually achieve ideal efficiency for a given generator. If you've ever driven a stick, then you likely understand.

Moving to an electronic system means you instantly get a boost by doing away with frictional losses. Next, you gain another boost from actually running your generator at peak efficiency all the time, and in much lower and/or higher winds than previously capable.

Frankly, I'm not only surprised this hasn't been applied sooner, I'll be very surprised if this is vapour-ware.

Re:This perpetual motion machine just keeps gettin (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807003)

Lets say you run your generator for 24 hours per week. That is its normal power output. Now, run it for 2 days. You have just doubled its weekly power output. That's a 100% increase.
Run it for 3 days. 200%

That doesn't violate any laws of physics. This design simply makes the generator capable of being operated at times that it normally would not be able to operate at w/o excessive loss.

You are confusing efficiency with power output.

Twain sez... (2, Interesting)

copponex (13876) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807027)

"It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt."

Just like most of the energy contained in a gallon of gasoline is not converted into forward motion, most of the energy passing by a wind turbine is not converted into electricity. It's the "low hanging fruit" in energy research. It sounds like their idea is to use more but smaller and more efficient generators that are adapted to input from variable wind speeds rather than constant input from another source, like hydroelectric dams or steam powered turbines from nuclear plants. It also says they are electronically controlled, which may eliminate the need for wasteful transfers of energy, like varying the blade pitch, mechanical clutches, etc.

Still not as effective as conservation, but unfortunately, conservation can't have an IPO, and doesn't get a lot of business press.

Re:Twain sez... (0, Troll)

hagardtroll (562208) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807059)

Yea. Some day we need to discuss this over a nice glass of Tranya. The whole energy conversion efficiency of a delicious citrus beverage. Its not just for star ship attacks! Its an every day concoction for every day needs. Drink Up!

Same ole, same ole... (5, Funny)

MaxwellEdison (1368785) | more than 5 years ago | (#25806557)

Wind energy is a lot like politics and advertising. The more it blows, the more spin you see.

Re:Same ole, same ole... (0, Troll)

Tokerat (150341) | more than 5 years ago | (#25806793)

Wind energy is a lot like politics and advertising. The more it blows, the more spin you see.

<rimshot />

Re:Same ole, same ole... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25807227)

Wind energy is a lot like politics and advertising. The more it blows, the more spin you see.

<rimshot />

HEY! There are kids around! ... oh, you said shot not job. My bad.

This is good news. (-1, Offtopic)

hagardtroll (562208) | more than 5 years ago | (#25806561)

This is good news for the Tranya industry. We will be able to manufacture the delicious beverage at a greater rate than previously thought possible. The citrus indulgence can be served to your guests on any occasion, not just when you have been attacked by a star ship. I for one, am jubilant about the prospects of this tingly sensation being sipped on warm summer days or on long winter nights. The Tranya of my youth cannot be forgotten and today I have even more reason to celebrate this delicious beverage.

Even less dependency on foreign oil (4, Insightful)

cavis (1283146) | more than 5 years ago | (#25806679)

About a month ago, I was travelling on I-68/I-70 in Maryland, over the Cumberland Gap, when I saw a several wind turbines in the distance. After I got over the neat factor (even though we have them here in WV), I quickly realized that with each revolution of those turbines, we could/would be cleaning up the environment that much more. That alone makes me back this program 100%. Will it reduce foreign dependency as well? Let's hope so.

But, we are all going to have to get over seeing them as ugly or migratory-bird killers for this program to work. I truly want a future where we use very little foreign energy, and we harness renewable energy sources. I say we get those new turbines into the wild as quickly as possible. T. Boone Pickens, get to work!

Re:Even less dependency on foreign oil (2, Insightful)

RingDev (879105) | more than 5 years ago | (#25806893)

Will it reduce foreign dependency as well? Let's hope so.

It won't. We depend on foreign oil and cheap labor. Windmills provide neither. The US has coal. Lots of coal. Lots and lots and lots of coal. In another couple of decades, it wouldn't be surprising to hear about the US being a fuel provider exporting coal to the world market. If we didn't invest in wind energy, we would just burn more coal.

T. Boone Pickens, get to work!

T Boone Pickens is a salesman. What do salesmen do? They sell things. Why do they sell things? To make a profit. Remember that. His willingness to invest in wind power is admirable, but the natural gas plans he is pushing through along with wind will largely pad his wallet. So if we go the Pickens route, we have to keep an eye on the ball and make sure that we're not winding up on the short side of the stick with little to show for it. Maybe in the long term it'll be a good decision, but for now we need to approach it as pragmatists and look beyond the tri-fold full color brochure.

-Rick

Re:Even less dependency on foreign oil (1)

cavis (1283146) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807455)

Excuse my luck of HTML skill, but let me quote from CNN: (http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/science/07/08/pickens.plan/)

"Power from thousands of wind turbines that would line the corridor could be distributed throughout the country via electric power transmission lines and could fuel power plants in large population hubs, the oil baron said.

Fueling these plants with wind power would then free up the natural gas historically used to power them, and would mean that natural gas could replace foreign oil as fuel for motor vehicles, he said."

And I have no problem with T. Boone Pickens making money off this venture. You don't think that the ICGs and Massey Coal companies don't roll in the cash? And what environmental impact does coal have? Ever seen mountaintop removal? How about the emission reports from coal fired power plants? How about the homes and towns destroyed because the coal companies changed the water runoff for their sites?

Yes, we have coal to mine, but it normally comes at a high price.

Re:Even less dependency on foreign oil (2, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807515)

T Boone Pickens is a salesman. What do salesmen do? They sell things. Why do they sell things? To make a profit. Remember that. His willingness to invest in wind power is admirable, but the natural gas plans he is pushing through along with wind will largely pad his wallet.

Do you see an alternative in the heavy fright industry to natural gas? Mr. Picken's whole point is that you can't drive an 18 wheeler with electric (battery) technology. If you accept that then what do you purpose as a replacement for oil in this sector? And why assume that he is doing this just to 'pad his wallet'? He's already made his billions -- that and the fact that he's 80 years old (so I'm guessing he won't be running out of money before he dies) makes me think that he isn't purposing this just to make a buck.

Re:Even less dependency on foreign oil (1, Insightful)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807823)

I see an alternative - gasoline and diesel.

If we could just cut out the politics and the environmentalist bullshit, we'd be a lot better off.

There's tons of oil still untapped in the world.

We need to drill (and be nice to the environment if you want) in Alaska, Russia, wherever, and build new refineries (they can be the more expensive, cleaner ones if you want). If we do that, OPEC will be forced to play ball.

In the meantime, we should be building nuclear power plants and getting rid of coal refineries and mines.

It's not rocket science. Nuclear and oil are the best we have. Use hydroelectric where we can (sorry fish, too bad). Sure, go ahead and continue diversifying, but stop the political bullshit. Ethanol is a travesty. Natural gas is another finite resource that requires new infrastructure. Solar has a dozen "breakthroughs" a year and is still expensive and inefficient, still destroys the environment when you make them, and still only works in direct sunlight. Wind power needs wind and a ton of space. Etc. etc.

Until we stop the profiteering and political bullshit, we'll never get a real solution.

Re:Even less dependency on foreign oil (1)

Propaganda13 (312548) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807781)

I don't have a real problem with wind power, but it takes a lot of them to replace a coal plant. Depending on who's doing the figuring, the number of wind turbines changes. 1395 1.65MW wind turbines to replace the largest coal plant in Wisconsin for name plate production. Newer wind turbines to replace older coal plants isn't that bad of deal though.

Re:Even less dependency on foreign oil (5, Informative)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#25806979)

But, we are all going to have to get over seeing them as ugly or migratory-bird killers for this program to work.

And to do my part, I'll point out as I do in most wind turbine threads that windmills are not significant bird killers any more. In fact the very worst wind farm ever, Altamont Pass, killed fewer birds per year than a typical 3-story office building. And that was combining multiple worst-case factors, like an outdated scaffold design that encouraged raptors to nest on them, smaller fast-moving blades that are proven to be more difficult for birds to see and avoid, and a highly disadvantageous location in a choke point for bird migrations.

Modern wind mills have monolithic poles with rounded tops that birds can't nest or sit on, and have much larger, slower moving blades* that birds can see and avoid. I believe now they also do some cursory environmental studies to make sure they aren't putting the windmills directly in bird migratory paths, but with the other two improvements this probably isn't even that big a deal.

I'm a bird nerd. I love birds. If you can accept the bird deaths caused by glass windows in cities, windmills are not an issue.

Oh, and I think they're rather beautiful. :)

*Largely for efficiency reasons, the bigger the blade the more efficient. IIRC, the way they choose the sizes for windmill blades these days is by what will fit on the largest legally allowed trailer. I've seen convoys of trucks, each with very long trailers, each carrying *one* blade.

Re:Even less dependency on foreign oil (5, Funny)

RemoWilliams84 (1348761) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807221)

"In fact the very worst wind farm ever, Altamont Pass, killed fewer birds per year than a typical 3-story office building."

Wow, just think of the bird killing machine we could make if we mounted these windmills on 3-story buildings. I for one welcome less poop on my Humvee. ~

Re:Even less dependency on foreign oil (3, Informative)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807321)

Spot on. The 'windmills kill birds' argument is just another way for the 'we're against everything' crowd to try to stop any kind of change, for better or worse.

Re:Even less dependency on foreign oil (4, Funny)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807807)

he 'windmills kill birds' argument is just another way for the 'we're against everything' crowd to try to stop any kind of change

Build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything

Re:Even less dependency on foreign oil (3, Insightful)

hardburn (141468) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807341)

. . . a highly disadvantageous location in a choke point for bird migrations.

One thing that just clicked in my head: birds likely choose their migration path based on the predominant wind patters. We want to put windmills there for the same reason.

Re:Even less dependency on foreign oil (3, Interesting)

madsenj37 (612413) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807477)

Let me preface this with I do believe we need to invest in all renewable energy technologies, such as wind, tidal, solar, etc. That being said, we should not throw caution to the wind. We need to explore the effects/affects of what we do. Wind generators do in fact kill birds and bats [cleantechnica.com]. Wind mills decrease the number of species in a given environment and can lessen biodiversity. We need to be careful and do what we can to lessen the harmful things we do to nature. It is all about trade-offs and tipping points. We must establish what the tipping point for the number of wind generators we can safely use without being detrimental to the environment.

Re:Even less dependency on foreign oil (2, Informative)

turtledawn (149719) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807065)

They kill more bats than birds, as an fyi. And the birds they do get are mostly local low flying species- most (not all) migrants tend to fly high. The interesting thing is that most of the animals aren't killed by impacts, but by massive internal bleeding from decompression as they get caught in the low pressure zone behind the blade.

Actually, I think I might have read that in a link off /. Or possibly BiologyNews.net

I like windmills, but I think there has to be some way to mitigate the danger they pose to flying animals without impairing the efficiency or adding huge amounts to the cost. Would a cage around the blade path, like the ones we have on home floor fans, be a potential answer? It doesn't have to be closely spaced, you're not trying to keep out kid's fingers after all, but it would need to be sturdy enough to withstand moderate hail storms.

Re:Even less dependency on foreign oil (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807433)

Would a cage around the blade path, like the ones we have on home floor fans, be a potential answer? It doesn't have to be closely spaced, you're not trying to keep out kid's fingers after all, but it would need to be sturdy enough to withstand moderate hail storms.

It wouldn't be effective at all. Modern wind turbines have a diameter of 40-90 metres. A wire cage, sturdy enough to block bird and bat entry, survive hail and storm, would block off a significant portion of the wind. You would probably get better results by altering the paint scheme on the blades, or adding some sort of noise makers.

Re:Even less dependency on foreign oil (0, Flamebait)

SolidAltar (1268608) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807437)

>> The interesting thing is that most of the animals aren't killed by impacts, but by massive internal bleeding from decompression as they get caught in the low pressure zone behind the blade.

What the hell does that even mean? "Low pressure zone behind the blade" kills animals? I'm calling bullshit.

Re:Even less dependency on foreign oil (1, Insightful)

thhamm (764787) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807563)

I'm calling bullshit.

then go and find the 'bullshit' [wikipedia.org] why your common airplane can fly. hint: it's not flapping its wings.

Re:Even less dependency on foreign oil (1)

fataugie (89032) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807679)

I agree, mass internal bleeding? That is some f#cking intense low pressure...kind of like outer space

WOOOOO!

Re:Even less dependency on foreign oil (2)

Average_Joe_Sixpack (534373) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807281)

Will it reduce foreign dependency as well? Let's hope so.
 
No, because our main issue is with transportation fuels of which there is no substitute for the lighter grades of crude oil.

Re:Even less dependency on foreign oil (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807851)

No, because our main issue is with transportation fuels of which there is no substitute for the lighter grades of crude oil.

Yeah, no substitute [wikipedia.org] exists at all......

Re:Even less dependency on foreign oil (1)

jannesha (441851) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807293)

we are all going to have to get over seeing them as ugly or migratory-bird killers ...

A lot has been done to make wind turbines safer for birds. Bats, on the other hand:

"...wildlife fatalities at wind turbines are now a bat issue, not a bird issue." [ucalgary.ca]

It seems that bats, for some reason, are flying so close to the blades that the get caught in a vortex and suffer explosive decompression in their lungs. Yikes.

Even worse - bats tend to fly more frequently at low wind speeds. Note that this invention allows wind turbines to operate more efficiently at low wind speeds. Unfortunate combination.

I'm not saying that wind energy is bad - far from it. But regardless of what we do (i.e. seek 'clean' energy sources), there's going to be complications and a big, steep learning curve.

Here's a radio interview with one of the bat researchers [www.cbc.ca]

Re:Even less dependency on foreign oil (1)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807461)

Pickens plan is also a water resources grab [businessweek.com]. He may be helping in some ways, but he's no philanthropist. He's in this to make money, don't forget that.

Besides, I always wonder why we don't invest more in geothermal. It's a hell of a lot less invasive than wind. I guess some key technology is still missing there to make it viable though.

Re:Even less dependency on foreign oil (1)

texas neuron (710330) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807637)

Since wind energy is mostly intermittent, it ends us displacing natural gas consumption. I think in Texas, the contribution to the base load is something like 8% of nameplate capacity.

Re:Even less dependency on foreign oil (1)

bwcbwc (601780) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807829)

But, we are all going to have to get over seeing them as ugly or migratory-bird killers for this program to work. I truly want a future where we use very little foreign energy, and we harness renewable energy sources.

Better yet, lets work on some turbine designs that don't involve large blades sweeping through the air. With this "transmission" design, it should be possible to build some wind generators that can work efficiently without requiring the amount of torque that is needed to make the current designs work. If we can efficiently generate wind-power without the large torque requirements, no more bird-killers needed.

Nice work! (4, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#25806683)

So let me get this straight -- it's more efficient, has fewer moving parts, has a higher power output, and is cheaper to mass produce? Buy that engineer a beer! This is a real leap forward in a machine class that hasn't made more than incremental improvements for awhile now. The spirit of Nikoli Tesla approves. Next question: Can this technology be adapted for use in the hydroelectric industry? I think it may be possible, and it would reduce maintenance costs somewhat -- maybe we could throw out the sluce gates and make water flow through the dam with fewer electromechanical parts?

Re:Nice work! (1)

bwcbwc (601780) | more than 5 years ago | (#25806903)

WOOT! Assuming it isn't just BS to get VC funding. The theory sounds reasonable, though.

Other applications (3, Informative)

Jabbrwokk (1015725) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807047)

According to the company's website [exro.com], which does have pictures of the design for anyone who is interested, this could be used with other energy sources than wind:

While this overview focuses primarily on the wind applications, VIEG Technology is expected to have a material impact on the economic viability of a wide range of renewable energy applications.

There you go. I predict this could be more applicable in tidal energy than traditional big-dam hydro, although it might be useful in small, run-of-the-river projects to make them more efficient. They might even be useful in big run-of-the-river projects [plutonic.ca], which will create over 1,000 megawatts of new electricity in the next few years in British Columbia alone.

Re:Other applications (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807399)

I think it's an adaptation of certain kinds of motor drives that have already been in use for some time, where changing the "gear" means changing which taps are powered on the motor.

Re:Nice work! (2, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807199)

Can this technology be adapted for use in the hydroelectric industry?

It would depend on whether the water flow was constant or not. If the water flow in a hydro generator is constant, than no. If not, then yes.

Re:Nice work! (1)

deepgrey (1246108) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807243)

I doubt it would be much use for hydroelectric power - at least not large scale. The synchronous generators in dams probably don't have that many parts to wear out - just bearings and brushes. You'd probably be increasing the complexity by using this permanent magnet rotor design.

Re:Nice work! (1)

tristanreid (182859) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807475)

I don't believe this would be as useful for hydroelectric. The real advantage of this technology is that it can deal with highly variable flows, which is what you get with wind. With a hydroelectric dam, you can control the flow rate mechanically.

The big difference is that with wind, if you restrict the flow you get less energy. With water behind a dam, if you restrict the flow you still get to use energy later.

-t.

Re:Nice work! (1)

jhol13 (1087781) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807667)

Hydroelectric turbines are already extremely efficient (over 80% if not 90%), there cannot be much improvements any more. Besides they are completely different.

For the wind turbines ... I suspect this is apples to oranges comparision. Getting 100% power increase on low wind is not going to make big difference on a site when yearly output is calculated - unless the place is not very good for windmills in the first place.

After all the energy of the wind is proportional to the cube of the speed.

You should still google for "Multiobjective Evolutionary Optimisation of Small Wind Turbine Blades", sometimes you cannot choose the place.

Re:Nice work! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25807827)

Well, I think the whole idea has already been successfully implemented.

Here in germany, you can basically see two types of wind generators: Those with a small, water-drop-shaped housing and those with a housing that has a large disc right next to the generator blades.

AFAIK, the large disc-like housing contains coil and magnet pairs (sometimes permanent magnets, sometimes electro magnets) which essentially make the generator an inverted brushless DC generator. By varying parameters in the power converter, the shape and amount of load on these coils can be varied and therefore the generator can be used very close to the maximum power point.
I fail to see how this invention is any different from this 'inverted BLDC' concept.

I wonder... (4, Interesting)

michrech (468134) | more than 5 years ago | (#25806697)

...how something like a CVT would work for a wind turbine.

Re:I wonder... (1)

lupine (100665) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807129)

Individual coils on the generator can be activated as needed. It doesnt need a transmission, that's the whole point.

What you should be asking is: Would this design work in electric car motors? The Tesla currently uses a 2 speed transmission. How much extra would they pay for a motor that doesn't need any transmission(or only needed a simple gear reduction)? Would it improve engine efficiency or regenerative braking efficiency so that they wouldn't need such a costly battery pack?

Future electric car dealers could standardize and simplify engine design since an electric motor of this design would be modular, they could easily build an electric engine with 4 coils for cars or one with 8 coils for trucks.

Re:I wonder... (2, Informative)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807381)

been there, done that, as have *countless* others. Really, I don't know how this even begins to classify as 'new'.

Automatic star-delta switches have been done, same with electronic versions that do voltage conversion so that the maximum amount of power flows to the grid (or the batteries for off-grid systems).

Wind power is *full* of snake oil companies and investor scams. As well as people that try to pass off old stuff as new.
 

Re:I wonder... (2, Insightful)

Cyner (267154) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807309)

The biggest problem with CVT technology is that currently it's pretty weak. CVTs in cars can only handle about 300HP (~230KW); a 5KW+ turbine would snap that like a matchstick. And one big enough to handle that turbine would sap quite a bit of efficiency.

Re:I wonder... (1)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807671)

5kW is 6.7HP, so why would a CVT sized for 300HP "snap that like a matchstick"?

Did you mean 5MW?

Hydraulics are the answer (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25806901)

Read somewhere that hydraulic-pumps up in the air on the turbine with hoses all leading to a central electric generation plant nearby brings down the maintenance cost considerably. Efficient generators are more expensive and require more skilled maintenance than hydraulic-pumps factoring in the loss of efficiency with the hydro delivery system.

Where was this? (2, Informative)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807317)

I've used hydraulics. The efficiency is rather poor (remember in a wind turbine the hoses have to rotate or you need a rotating pressure joint - the thing has to face the wind, and to get good output the prop center needs to be high up meaning long hose runs.) I find it very hard indeed to believe that a PM generator with adaptive electronic control needs more maintenance than hydraulic systems, or that any cost savings outweigh the loss of efficiency over a 20 year plus lifespan. As a simple example, rail locomotives are Diesel-electric rather than Diesel-hydraulic. Hydraulics are (to the best of my knowledge) mainly useful when you want to get variable speed drives off constant speed prime movers, such as when you want the same prime mover to act as an AC generator on fixed 60 or 50Hz while also using it to power thrusters.

Re:Hydraulics are the answer (1)

Tokerat (150341) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807471)

Read somewhere that hydraulic-pumps up in the air on the turbine with hoses all leading to a central electric generation plant nearby brings down the maintenance cost considerably. Efficient generators are more expensive and require more skilled maintenance than hydraulic-pumps factoring in the loss of efficiency with the hydro delivery system.

Great, now we'll have to rely on foreign hydraulic fluid!
</sarcasm>

Think of the salmon! (-1, Flamebait)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807107)

I'm so green, I DONT like wind because it forces hydro dams to purge water, flooding out the fish.

\where's my yurt?

Decent Summary, Thanks (5, Interesting)

schwaang (667808) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807113)

The first thing I wondered was "what makes this design different?"

Magnets attached to a rotating shaft create a current, but individual coils can be turned on and off electronically at different wind speeds.

This is a nice, simple explanation of why this design can be kept efficient in a wider range of wind speeds.

Since we love to bash some of the lamer summaries, I think this one deserves a bump on the plus side.

ridiculous, do the math (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25807263)

somebody is telling a stretcher here. Power goes as the cube of the wind speed. There's no point in trying to squeeze a few more percent at the low end of the range. There's just no power down there to squeeze out.

for example, at 1/2 top speed, you're getting 1/8 or 12.5% of full power at best. If it's actually 8% due to slow generator speed, no big deal. Another 4% is not worth spending much on.

Re:ridiculous, do the math (0, Troll)

hagardtroll (562208) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807407)

You forget the multiplier effect of cool breezes on a summer afternoon. Sipping Tranya out of a tall glass. No need to add ice, the beverage provides its delicious refreshment free of chemical or thermodynamic modifiers. Imagine, a light breeze wafting through the air, laying back in a reclined position, sipping on this delicious concoction. You will be titilated by the promise of sensations yet to come. Enjoy all that the Tranya is.

Re:ridiculous, do the math (2, Insightful)

tristanreid (182859) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807619)

What if the wind blows at X 80% of the time, and gusts above X 20% of the time?

You're assuming that they're trying to squeeze more energy from the low end of the range, I think they're actually trying to catch the period gusts that are above the normal range. Increasing the resistance will make the windmill safer (and more effective) to operate at higher speeds, until a certain limit is reached where it just has to be shut down for safety.

-t.

Yes, we are all Americans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25807269)

I'm a Canadian, and proud to be one.

That notwithstanding, where is Vancouver? This is where the company in question is from. There are 3 Vancouvers on the west coast, two at the "bottom" (south edge) of a boundary (BC, WA). Vancouver Oregon is mid-state at Portland.

Well, this proud company won't give its snail mail contact, just email and area code. I guess they are trying to fool the masses that they are from the USA, because they are from the Canadian Vancouver. Not really surprising, as Vancouver Canada is much bigger than the other Vancouvers. The area code verifies it is Canada.

What is the problem here? Are Canadians stupid? We are incapable of doing anything that the world will find useful? Canadians were involved with the original Apollo program, but I doubt this is public knowledge in much of the USA. Is the business so marginal, that to let it be known that it is Canadian, is going to see it fail? Is it doing something which doesn't allow IP laws (as much as they are bogus these days) protect it in some way?

Good concept... (3, Interesting)

Manip (656104) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807385)

So what of the things that rarely fails me is a "common sense" check on new designs, particularly when it comes to renewable energy concepts (as there are a lot of impossible inventions around).

So let's break down this design:
- Works like a normal electric motor so thus we know it works *CHECK*
- Have electronic switches to open and close a circuit, which we know works *CHECK*
- We know longer circuits have more resistance than shorter ones *CHECK*
- We know changing the number of coils in an electric generator is optimal for different levels of generation *CHECK*

So it seems to be a very good design that should work very well. Their claims of 100% more efficiency are a little over the top but may work in some locations. I think it is safe to say that most locations should see an increase in efficiency with the new design over the old one.

The way they've built their motor is also a little novel but only really amounts to a way to customize the motor for different situations and thus really isn't all too interesting in the grand scheme of things.

5Kw??? (-1, Troll)

Toll_Free (1295136) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807401)

This story wreaks of bullshit.

An Engine is internal combustion device. A motor is a device driven by electricity. A generator MAKES electricity.

When you start calling something that makes electricity by the name of something burns (for the most part) fossile fuels, you really don't know what your talking about.

And 5 Kw, here where I live, we have quarter megawatt and bigger generators. And literally, thousands of them (I live in the largest wind driven power community in the world (at least, 2 years ago, we where... Could have changed by now)).

Telling us about a 5 kilowatt system in a year? The Japanese and Germans have so many cool devices, along with GE, on our mountains here, I can't see anyone chomping at the bit to get a 5 kw unit. Hell, people in my neighborhood have 25 and 50 Kw units in their yards, selling power back to the utilities.

Fluff and FUD.

--Toll_Free

Re:5Kw??? (1)

tristanreid (182859) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807779)

It seems like just a matter of semantics, but for the record an engine is not necessarily an internal combustion device.

A motor is a subclass of engine. Really an electrical generator is a motor in reverse, so again...who cares?

Also, the article uses the term generator anyway...uhm...am I feeding a troll!?!? ^&#$!!!

-t.

Climate change effect of Wind Turbines? (1)

Tokerat (150341) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807445)

OK, a little off topic here, but question for anyone who can actually answer knowledgeably:

If the wind is turning these turbines, it's obviously taking some energy out of the wind. If wind farms become massively deployed, couldn't that change weather patterns as we alter wind energies? Or, is the difference so negligible that the amount of turbines constructed for our energy needs would only be a fraction of what is necessary to cause such a disruption?

Not that I'm against wind energy, mind you. However, with all this talk about using wind energy because it's a green solution (i.e. to reduce global warming), the thought occurred to me that we might still be messing with localized weather->regional climate->global climate yet again.

Re:Climate change effect of Wind Turbines? (2, Insightful)

mshannon78660 (1030880) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807535)

I haven't done anything to work this out, but I do think the effect is negligible. Most of these turbines are 200-250' tall - so on the order of a 20-30 story building. We build those all the time, without worrying about affecting weather patterns (though they may have a very local effect). But the turbines are much less disruptive to the wind than the building even - they just slow it down a bit, rather than blocking it all together. So, other than causing storms to more often go around the wind farm itself, I can't see this really affecting global or even continental weather patterns.

Re:Climate change effect of Wind Turbines? (3, Interesting)

Gibbs-Duhem (1058152) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807853)

Yes, it does have an effect. There is data showing that in wind farms the average temperature is slightly higher, and of course the wind speed is lower.

Very large wind farms will probably cause local temperature increases of 1-2 degrees centigrade. This could, of course, be mitigated by planting lots of trees all around them...

Not so fast Einstein (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25807791)

In attempting to counteract large variance in wind speed - compensated by generator design in this case - the method fails to address a primary problem of excessive rotor speed. Rotor in this case being the wind catching vanes.

The solution to this problem, which also addresses large variance in generator speed is an 1800's invention called a flyball governor which by way of simple linkage changes the attack angle of the vanes in harmony with changes in wind speed with excellent regulation over a broad range.

I'll gloss over the posted advertisement being written by a third grader.

what a drag. (3, Funny)

notgm (1069012) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807843)

am i the only one worried that with a boom in windfarms, the drag on the earth's rotation will increase, slowing it and lengthening the day, making me stay at work *that* much longer?

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...