David Yanez invented these turbines, known as the Vortex Bladeless. His six-person startup, based just outside Madrid, Spain, pioneered a groundbreaking design capable of generating wind power without the environmental impacts that come with it, such as hundreds of thousands of bird deaths.
Up to 500,000 birds and bats die each year from getting caught in the enormous, spinning blades of the typical turbines.
Blades create noise as well, which can be a nuisance to residents living near wind farms. Furthermore, turbines with blades are more expensive because of the installation and maintenance. In contrast, Yanez's Vortex Bladeless is cheaper because of lower installation costs and minimal maintenance requirements.
Unlike the standard wind turbines that use power from spinning blades to run generators, Yanez's turbine uses vibrations from air hitting the pillar-like structure.
The curious structure seems to wobble back and forth because of two large magnets positioned at the base. The magnets are positioned in such a way that they are repelling each other.
If the wind pushes the turbine one way, one of the magnets will pull it back. The turbine's alternator, which is a generator that converts mechanical energy into electrical energy, will then increase the frequency of those movements to transform them into electricity.
The entire shaft of the Vortex Bladeless is made of pultruded carbon fiber, a material that can withstand nearly 25 years of use before breaking down or wearing out. Therefore, maintenance shouldn't be an issue.
Moreover, the Vortex Bladeless is quieter and smaller than conventional turbines. It can also adapt more easily to changes in wind direction.
It also won't freeze up during harsh winter storms because it does not have a motor running inside. The historic winter storm that swept across Texas in February caused conventional wind turbines to stop working, causing power shortages. (Related: Ice can cause wind turbines to produce up to 80 percent less power, according to study.)
Yanez also claimed that their turbine can generate electricity about 30 times cheaper than conventional turbines because of its lower installation costs and minimal maintenance requirements.
But despite the many advantages of Vortex Bladeless over conventional turbines, Yanez said they aren't against traditional wind farms at all. He said their turbine has different characteristics that allow it for use in places where traditional wind farms are not appropriate, such as within residential areas or even around cities.
In fact, Yanez envisions Vortex Bladeless turbines being attached to houses, much like solar panels. He said the turbine would complement the solar panels nicely. Solar panels produce electricity during the day, whereas turbines tend to produce more electricity at night when wind speeds are stronger.
Yanez's design recently won the approval of Equinor ASA, Norway's state energy company. Equinor named the innovative turbine on a list of the 10 most exciting startups in the energy sector. Equinor will be offering Yanez's startup support through a program called "Equinor and Techstars Energy Accelerator."
The current prototype of the bladeless turbine is small and can generate only small amounts of electricity, even at maximum capacity. Yanez said they are looking for an industrial partner so that they can begin working on a gigantic, 140-meter-tall turbine capable of generating one megawatt (MW).
Go to Power.news to learn more about the advantages and challenges of wind power.