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Ingenuity is everything when it comes to design

Demand for clean energy has led to a wind turbine building boom. But the industry’s leading designers are going beyond what’s been done before in an effort boost efficiency and yield. PES investigates.

Everyone’s noticed that wind turbines are getting really big – some with blades as long as a football field – and more powerful, often generating 50 times more electricity than the first generation of wind power machines built in the 1980s.

But scientists are also studying how to harness the wind in different ways that could help allay concerns that today’s turbines are unattractive, noisy and sometimes even dangerous.

Already in the works: turbines that float
and turbines that fly. Turbines without blades and turbines with blades fat enough to fit a double-decker bus inside.

They won’t just be on hillsides either. Some will be in the ocean, while others will be on rooftops and light poles. A few will even be in the sky.

One design was inspired by the humble bumblebee.

Sabri Sansoy, an MIT graduate and former rocket engineer, has built a 19 foot-tall prototype whose blades, rather than spin in a circle, move in a figure-eight motion like the insect’s wings. Sansoy hopes the design will generate more electricity than turbines of similar size.

“I’ve been called everything from brilliant to a nincompoop over this,” said Sansoy, whose Marina del Rey company Green Wavelength is looking to commercialise the technology.


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