A journey through the evolution of the most spectacular wind turbines designs in the world –
Looking for an environmentally friendly energy source while looking gracious, aesthetic and beautiful? The answer is blowing in the wind! Wind turbines float in the air, some rotate horizontally, others vertically. Some are lighter-than air while others are majestically integrated into skyscraper buildings. The sheer assortment of wind turbine designs to be found around us in this world is simply breath taking. Wherever the wind is blowing, an amazing wind turbine design is not far away and standing proud for admiration while generating clean energy for us almost silently.
Below is a selection of pictures and descriptions of some of the most spectacular & truly ambitious wind turbine designs of this millennium…whose scope & promise could pave the way for much greater harnessing of wind energy. This collection of some of the world’s most amazing wind turbine designs together with high level descriptions (and accomplished with a beautiful wind poem) was compiled for the enjoyment of all you wind power enthusiasts in mind.
We are starting this picture series with a small selection of beautiful images of historical and traditional wind mill and wind turbine designs and will finish with the most spectacular high tech inventions of this century. An amazing journey through the evolution of the most spectacular wind turbine designs ever. Enjoy!
Wind Turbine 1888 by Charles Brush
Charles F. Brush’s 60 foot, 80,000 pound turbine that supplied 12kW of power to 350 incandescent lights, 2 arc lights, and a number of motors at his home for 20 years. It today is believed to be the first automatically operating wind turbine for electricity generation and was built in the winter of 1887 – 1888 in his back yard. Its rotor was 17 meters in diameter. The large rectangular shape to the left of the rotor is the vane, used to move the blades into the wind. The dynamo turned 50 times for every revolution of the blades and charged a dozen batteries each with 34 cells. For scale, note gardener pushing lawnmower underneath and to right of the turbine.
Around 1940 in the US, it was announced that ‘Plans were being made to harness mankind’s oldest and cheapest source of power for industry by means of huge aero generators’.
Further, it went that ‘The next few years might see a great change in the landscape of our country. In certain strategic areas which promise a constant, strong wind such as in mountain passes, will grow strange structures resembling the Martian machines of H. G. Wells. But these will be instruments of construction, rather than destruction. These are tall steel towers to which supporting propeller fans are being assembled to convert wind energy into electrical power’.
Little did they know how far the pressure of moving away from generating power by means of burning fossil fuels will bring us in the new millennium?
In 1941, a full-scale futuristic looking wind turbine was built on a mountain top in Vermont and hooked up to the system of the Vermont Public Service Corporation as an auxiliary power source. Mounted on a 110 foot steel tower, its twin 56-foot blades were designed to develop 1,2Kw at a wind velocity of 30 mph. Under favourable conditions, it actually developed 1,4Kw. Although a practical success, structural and financial difficulties ended the experiment. This amazing futuristic design could even withhold any criticism from today’s contemporary wind turbine designers.
Classic ‘Dutch Style’ Wind Mills
The first fact people recall about The Netherlands as a country is of course its ‘Windmills’. Windmills have been built in The Netherlands for many centuries. In the beginning, the mills were developed for corn milling, land drainage, saw milling and for many other industrial purposes.
Dutch wind mills are actually in many ways quite primitive. Only using canvas sails and turned to the direction from where the wind was coming from by hand. Quite different to the automated mechanisms that can also be seen below which were developed for English windmills which included fantails and shuttered sails.
There are still a very pleasing number of functioning remaining windmills in the Netherlands and even a set of ‘Dutch Style’ Windmills in the US to be seen in the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, CA.
The number of operating mills in The Netherlands is currently about 1200 and rising, in that the Dutch only count complete workable mills, and in the past years, many extensive rebuilds have occurred to add to this number. Aren’t they just beautiful?
“A breeze came wandering from the sky, light as the whispers of a dream; He put the overhanging grasses by, and softly stooped to kiss the stream, The pretty stream, the flattered stream, The shy, yet un-reluctant stream of wind”
William Cullen Bryant
World’s Biggest Wind Turbine
Currently the biggest and most powerful wind turbine in the world is the Enercon E-126 wind turbine (pictured above) generating 6Mw.
The Crown Estate of England certainly knows from which direction the wind blows and has decided to acquire the prototype of the world’s (yet to come) biggest wind turbine, The Clipper 7.5Mw (megawatt) MBE turbine, also known as the Britannia.
There is no current picture available for the Britannia 7.5Mw Clipper and the previous record was held as mentioned before by the Enercon E-126 wind turbine which is rated at 6 megawatt, but can produce around 7 in real world conditions.
While the Enercon is land-based, the Britannia will be located in deep waters near the UK. This makes sense because the marine interests of The Crown Estate include almost the entire UK territorial seabed out to 12 nautical miles, about 55% of the UK’s coastal foreshore, and rights to lease seabed for the generation of renewable energy on the continental shelf within the Renewable Energy Zone which extends out to approximately 200 nautical miles. A giant in the world of wind turbines, which is setting an example to all other large wind turbine manufacturers around the globe.
The MagLev – A Magnetically Levitated Wind Turbine
The MadLev is a magnetically levitated wind turbine that can generate one Gigawatt of power (enough to power 750,000 homes) and delivers clean power for less than one cent per kilowatt hour using this wind turbine.
Magnetic levitation is a very efficient method of capturing wind energy. The blades of the turbine are suspended on a cushion of air, and the energy is directed to linear generators with minimal fiction losses. But the big advantage with maglev is that it reduces maintenance costs, and increases the lifespan of the generator. The manufacturer claims that it requires less land space than hundreds of conventional turbines. The MagLev wind turbine was invented by Ed Mazur, a researcher of variable renewable energy sources since 1981. There are already several MagLev wind turbines in operation in China.
The M.A.R.S. (Magenn Power Air Rotor System) is an interesting device that is capable of harnessing the power of the wind (pretty much like how a windmill works) to generate electricity, sending that power down a 330 meter tether rope for immediate consumption. Since the M.A.R.S. is filled with helium, it is capable of flying much higher than other wind turbines in order to gain access to higher wind speeds. The 4.0 kW unit will enter production this year, with another 7 more models in the pipeline which will be released within the next four years.
Helical Structured Wind Turbine
Helical structured wind turbines are the future of wind mill technology. These amazingly unique looking twists and turns will replace those long and boring blades which represent the conventional image of a windmill. These new and sleek looking windmills are designed much like the old ones when it comes to converting their circular motion in to mechanical work, but it is the structural design that makes them unique and special. In fact, they logically should function better than the traditional windmills as the helical structures seems to not just utilize the energy of the wind, but maximize it by containing the wind.
Phillipe Starck’s Home Windmill
Wind power going glam. Top designer Starcks’ ingenuity and eye for design has emerged into a unique and stylish home wind turbine like we have never seen before. These so called windmills are part of “Democratic Ecology”, a line that Starck has developed with an Italian Industrial group. “It’s part of what we love so much about his designs – the marriage of beauty, function and responsibility.” “Ecology is not just an urgency of the economy and protection of our world but also creativity and elegance” says Philippe Starck.
Made from the same transparent material also used in the very familiar Louis Ghost Chair, these clever contraptions are able to generate 20—60% of a home’s energy needs. In addition to looking like a piece of Gucci jewellery, they are relatively inexpensive.
This is the “LoopWing”. Another futuristic and experimental looking wind turbine designed and manufactured in the East. It was unveiled in Japan’s Eco-Products 2006 Exhibition. The E1500 model turbine is a home windmill and sports a very unique wing design that operates with low vibration and at wind speeds as low as 1.6 m/sec. The efficiency specs on the turbine are vague — “43% power performance at optimum wind speeds”.
“A breeze came wandering from the sky, light as the whispers of a dream; He put the overhanging grasses by, and softly stooped to kiss the stream, The pretty stream, the flattered stream, The shy, yet unreluctant stream of wind”
Urban Turbines – “Quiet Revolution”
Many people think wind turbines are ugly but what about these unique and colourful residential street wind turbines? Conventional turbines are best suited to wide open spaces where there’s plenty of wind. So this nifty vertical axis, helical design is a much better solution for urban settings.
The Queen of England seems to agree. XCO2, a UK company behind the unconventional design, has applied for planning permission to build one outside her London residence, Buckingham Palace.
The “Quiet Revolution” turbine has 5-metre-tall blades which can generate 10Kw-hours of energy from a mean annual wind speed of just 5.8 metres per second. Embedded LEDs in each S-shaped blade are used to create images as the turbine turns. It is rumoured that the ones to be installed at Buckingham Palace may be used to display a glowing union flag.
The V-LIM – A Rooftop Wind turbine
The V-LIM is a vibration free, silent, self indexing, high-bandwidth wind turbine suitable for rooftop mounting.
Rogue River Wind and Portland State University Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science, have joined forces to optimize power generation from a high efficiency wind turbine suitable for rooftop mounting. Pictured here, this twelve foot, self indexing turbine can produce 3Kw at 15mph winds. The turbine is unaffected by air turbulence that can adversely affect most open bladed designs allowing rooftop mounting without tall towers. The turbine is silent, vibration free and can be screened to prevent harm to birds and other wildlife. The turbine can be used in both rural and urban locations with good wind resource. Due to its unusual design (looking more like a large motorbike wheel with white tyres rather than a wind turbine) it was without question that we had to include this amazing looking piece of engineering into this collection of the most amazing windmills of the world.
Sky Serpent – An Array of Small Rotors
Doug Selsam’s Sky Serpent uses an array of small rotors to catch more wind for less money. The key to increasing efficiency is to make sure each rotor catches its own fresh flow of wind and not just the wake from the one next to it, as previous multi-rotor turbines have done. That requires figuring out the optimal angle for the shaft in relation to the wind and the ideal spacing between the rotors. The payoff is machines that use one tenth the blade material of today’s mega-turbines yet produce the same wattage. A wonderful and controversial design of which the inventor says “This is a 1,000 year-old design” of the single-bladed turbine, “I knew if I could get more rotors, I could get more power.”
The ‘Jellyfish’ Micro Turbine
At a mere 36 inches tall, the Jellyfish plug-in wind appliance can generate about 40 kilowatt hours each month, that’s enough to light a home using high-efficiency bulbs.
The Jellyfish Wind Appliance consists of the following parts:
A vertical-axis wind turbine (VAWT)
A solid-state controller
A variable-speed induction generator
In order to reduce the demand for costly transmission infrastructures, the Jellyfish can work in tandem with the existing power grid and can deliver power exactly where it is needed. Although micro-wind is nothing new, at $400 a pop, the Jellyfish’s price, design and simplicity makes this micro turbine product a fresh face in the market.
The Highway Turbine
This is a very novel way of re-capturing some of the energy expended by vehicles moving at high speeds on our nations highways which is being proposed by an Arizona State University. Knowingly, air turbulence is generated by vehicles moving at speed particularly trucks and the proposal would involve mounting horizontal wind turbines above the roadway that would be driven by the moving air generated by the passing traffic. The electricity generated by spinning these turbines could be fed back into the grid. Analysis indicate that based on vehicle speeds of 70 mph each turbine could produce 9,600 kWh per year.
These wind turbines are of a quiet running type. In many built up areas there is enough constant traffic volume to maintain a steady airflow through much of the day. The big question that needs to be answered is whether the nature of the turbulent airflow could keep the turbines turning.
The Broadstar’s AeroCam turbine design is an absolute head-turner. The design is based on principles first established by the French aeronautical engineer Georges Jean Marie Darrieus (1888-1979), who invented a wind turbine capable of operating from any direction and under adverse weather conditions. Darrieus machines typically have a vertical axis, whereas the AeroCam design has a horizontal axis with multiple blades, giving it the appearance of a water wheel. The major innovation in the design, however, is the ability to automatically and interactively adjust the pitch or angle of attack of the aerodynamic blades as the turbine rotates, thereby optimizing its performance for much the same reasons a bird changes the shape of its wing in flight.
The ‘Nano Skin’ Spiral Twist Wind Turbine
Agustin Otegu, the inventor of the ‘Nano Skin’ wind turbine thinks that the future of green buildings lies not in the giant wind turbines we’ve seen in so many other projects, nor in huge solar panels. Instead his new design proposal, called Nano-vent Skin, would incorporate tiny, biological self-repairing wind turbines into the outer layer of a building. As wind played over the building’s “skin,” the turbines would spin and create energy that would be fed into the building’s electrical grid. They would also absorb carbon dioxide.
Otegu says: “The outer skin of the structure absorbs sunlight through an organic photovoltaic skin and transfers it to the nano-fibers inside the nano-wires which then is sent to storage units at the end of each panel. Each turbine on the panel generates energy by chemical reactions on each end where it makes contact with the structure. Polarized organisms are responsible for this process on every turbine’s turn. The inner skin of each turbine works as a filter absorbing CO2 from the environment as wind passes through it.” Quite an amazing invention we think.
The ‘Helix’ Wind Turbine
A new breed of vertical axis wind turbine (VAWT) from Helix Wind offers a promising design that may change the way we do wind at home. The Helix Wind Savonious 2.0 uses a unique rotor capable of capturing omni-directional winds to provide quieter, kinder small wind power for your urban home.
The Helix S322 is compact, elegant, sophisticated and versatile. It provides smooth power and torque delivery across a broad range of wind speeds and under the most difficult of physical environments. No furling or shutting down, simple to install, modular and scalable, the S322 is ideally designed for urban environments, low draw, off-grid applications and liquids pumping. This turbine is very captivating to the eye indeed.
The ‘Dutch Windmill Tree’
Dutch company One Architecture, Ton Matton and NL Architects were commissioned by the Dutch government for a next generation windmill. The proposed mill is shaped like a tree and can hold up to 8 turbines and be as high as 120 meters! The Dutch government feels that tree shaped mills are less intrusive in the flat Dutch landscape than the mill-parks they use.
The ‘Bahrain World Trade Centre’ Turbines
The Atkins designed Bahrain World Trade Center (BWTC) made history when the three turbines which are allocated between the two adjourning towers were turned together for the first time.
The three 29m-diameter turbine blades on Bahrain’s iconic landmark are the first in the world to be integrated on such a scale into a commercial development and are forecast to provide the equivalent of 11-15% of the power for the two towers when fully operational. “Having all three turbines spinning simultaneously represents an historic achievement for this landmark project and Atkins is excited to have been a major player in turning the original idea into reality” says Simha LytheRao Senior Project Manager for Atkins in Bahrain.”
The BWTC design blends maritime aesthetics with the functionality of traditional wind-towers. The visually striking sail-shaped towers form a commanding silhouette on the skyline of Manama, and serve to channel the strong on-shore winds directly onto the three spinning blades.
…and the absolute winner of our ‘Amazing Wind Turbine Designs’ collection is:
The Anara Tower – Dubai
Here we have another skyscraper, this time in Dubai and in the shape of a giant wind turbine. Following a global design competition between three Atkins offices – Dubai, Hong Kong and London – Dubai based property developer Tameer holding has decided on the 600meter-plus skyscraper design to be build on the famous Sheik Zayed Road.
Based on current world rankings the ‘Anara’ Tower will be amongst the world’s tallest structures. Besides the giant wind turbine which will be integrated in the building’s design at the top of the tower, the 2,15 feet (655m) tall structure includes a mixed use development with retail, offices, 300 luxury apartments and a 250-room luxury hotel.
The ‘Anara by Night’ -Illustration
As one can see on the vertical renderings, it has a tremendous atrium and vertical gardens every 27 floors. It will also hold a panoramic restaurant in the glass capsule at the top of the building. The design of ‘Anara’ Tower is maximizing water and energy efficiency; and includes renewable sources of energy. In our opinion, The ‘Anara’ Wind Turbine Tower represents the future of what is to come in the world of energy sufficient buildings designs.
Construction is set to be started during next year and more images will surely follow on completion of the project. Watch this space
And wind turbine design never stops… here are some more to tickle your fancy, or float your sky boat!
The Magenn Air Rotor System
This design should be ideal for farms and remote locations, the MARS is nothing extra-terrestrial… it stands for the Magenn Power Air Rotor System. The wind turbine is tethered to the ground and floats in the air. This lighter-than-air wind turbine rotates around a horizontal axis irrespective of where the wind is blowing to generate electrical energy. This electrical energy passes down the tether to a transformer and then can be transferred to the electricity power grid. Helium is used to keep the MARS Air Rotor aloft, while its rotation keeps it stable and in a optimal position.
“The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind”
The Sweet-Escott SET
British inventor Sweet-Escott has come up with an amazing wind turbine that is silent and virtually hidden from view.
He calls it the Secret Energy Turbine (SET), the wind turbine looks like an ordinary chimney stack and has vertically mounted blades fixed under the influence of two opposing magnets. As the blades catch the wind and start to spin, they form an airfoil by means of boundary layers.
The uneven current generated by the wind turbine is organized by an electronic load controller, which is then fed into a battery pack, from where a sine wave inverter converts it to AC voltage. The wind turbine is made available in three different variants that can generate between 2W to 2000W depending on wind speed and the size of the wind turbine.
So no complaints from the neighbours, because it’s not unsightly, and it’s not noisy!
“Switch off the mind and let the heart decide who you were meant to be (Windpower)
Flick to remote and let the body glide, there is no enemy (Windpower)
Etch out a future of your own design, well tailored to your needs (Windpower)
Then fan the flame and keep the dream alive..
(Thomas Dolby- “Windpower”)
Phillipe Starck, inventor and designer, produced two turbine designs for home. Named“Revolutionair,” the sleek turbines were officially debuted after a lengthy 2 years of research and work. The turbines will be “revolutionary” in that they are designed for domestic use by homeowners. That means that ordinary individuals can put them in their yards, gardens or on roofs to generate power for their households. The clear quadrangular 400W WT model has a power output of 400W and the helicoidal 1KW WT one will be able to generate 1 KW of power.
The designer turbines will be produced by Pramac, an Italian company and should sell for around 2,500 euros (quadrangular) and 3,500 euros (helicoidal).
“We have to help people to produce energy, to be part of the fight,” Starck said. “Energy should not be a punishment, we should create a desire (among people to produce it).”
We wish him well… and hope that some day soon, the design can be developed to harness greater windpower beyond that of domestic household needs.
Ok.. I’ll admit this is still at the drawing board phase, but it’s breathtaking! Stalks, swaying in the wind, generating energy.. hence the name- Windstalk.
In the Windstalk concept, these energy generators were designed by New York design firm Atelier DNA and are inspired by stalks of grass or wheat that simply gyrate and oscillate in the wind, generating energy. The plan is to use them at Masdar city, the project uses 1203 stalks in all, standing 180 feet high anchored to the ground with concrete bases 10 to 20 meters in diameters.
Also, the stalks include LED lights on the top that glow brighter with higher wind intensities, making them look awesome- like a thousand tiny fireflies.
Using piezoelectric ceramic discs to generate energy, these are truly revolutionary, and I hope that they prove viable as well as pretty!