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New Japanese Wind Turbine Triples Power Output Without Increasing Size

RP Siegel | Friday September 9th, 2011 | 20 Comments

Necessity, as we’ve all been told can sometimes be the mother of invention. In Japan, there is a necessity for a power source that does not require fossil fuels, since they don’t have any. So the Japanese invested heavily in nuclear power, which, at the moment, is looking like a tenuous investment given the recent Fukushima meltdown. Fortunately, they did not put all their eggs in one basket, either.

In fact, researchers at Kyushu University, which houses the International Institute for Carbon-Neutral Energy Research, had a hunch that the answer just might be blowin’ in the wind, if only they could squeeze a little more out of it than what conventional technology would allow.

That’s when they came up with the wind lens. What is a wind lens, you ask, and what does it do? What does any lens do? It focuses. Except instead of focusing light, a wind lens, which is an inward curving ring around the perimeter of the circle inscribed by the turbine’s blades as they rotate, focuses airflow, directing and accelerating the air as it enters the blade zone. See the video below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifF-MOuzM_s

According to team leader Professor Prof. Yuji Ohya, it consists of an inlet shroud, a diffuser and a brim. This results in a low pressure area behind the turbine which draws in more air creating even more power. Researchers claim that this approach can triple the turbine’s output while reducing noise at the same time.

Last year in the US, wind turbines provided 40,180 MW of power, or 3.2% of total demand. Tripling that would bring it quickly up to 10%.

Extrapolating that out a bit: at this rate, the entire US energy demand could be met with about 20% of its wind energy potential. This would require an area of 170,000 square miles, about the size of California. Now, that’s still a pretty big area, but it’s getting smaller all the time. (Not that we ever wanted to meet all of our demand with wind, anyway.)

What is also getting smaller is the cost. This technology puts wind cost below coal and nuclear without subsidies. Growth in wind power will go hand in hand with growth in electric vehicles, which will be charging up overnight, which is when the winds are typically strongest.

Given the fact that Japan is an island nation, it has the advantage of being surrounded by water. The Kyushu researchers anticipate that the best use of these turbines will be offshore. They have designed hexagonal-shaped floating platforms to support them. The platform can be combined into a beehive-like formation. (See video)

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RP Siegel is the co-author of the eco-thriller Vapor Trails, the first in a series covering the human side of various sustainability issues including energy, food, and water.  Like airplanes, we all leave behind a vapor trail. And though we can easily see others’, we rarely see our own.

Follow RP Siegel on Twitter.


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  • Alan

    So far, so good. Now, the next step is to fit variable pitch propellers, to permit the working wind-speed parameters to be expanded.

    • D. Martin

      The average coal fired plant: 233 MW
      The average nuclear plant: 1,000 MW
      The average wind turbine 1 MW
      Don’t think that I have to go into a long explination.

      • Anon

        Yes D. Martin. 1 wind turbine doesn’t create a lot of electricity. Just like a coal plant doesn’t create much electricity from one boxcar of coal. It’s a good thing that wind farms have an average of over 200 turbines. California currently has 6 farms totaling well over 3,000 turbines. There’s a farm proposed in South Dakota with over 5,000 turbines.

        • R V

          Yes, and the total area is likely comparable to coal and nuclear plants when you include coal mines and other support facilities.

  • Barry

    Gee what are you smoking. Easy with those figures… Your quote about the cost being so low is bold faced LYING! Your easy extrapolation that 20% of the energy can be gotten from using 5% of the land…no mention of the thousand that are already adversely affected or that the entire renewable infrastructure has to be completely shadowed by active energy capacity…that has to be paid for while not being used…where is it that magic money coming from. Can you please share the figure for what percent of the time these magic machines actually generate energy when land based…is that number around 15%…if they are well sited and less if not? What is one to do the other 85% of the time? Again where does that money come from? Hey before carpeting the USA in wind turbines why not develop something that works and then invest in that…rather than invest in a FRAUD! How many billion have been flushed away before the technology is up to prime time?

    • Nick Aster

      Chill Barry…. no one’s talking about carpeting anything. We’re talking about an interesting new technology. Also, the initial application is clearly meant to be over water where it would be optimized.

    • http://www.triplepundit.com/author/bob-siegel/ RP Siegel

      Barry,
      I know that there is a contingent of people who have been, or fear that they will be, adversely impacted by wind power installations and have therefore taken an anti-wind stance. I have also heard this argument from these folks that “the entire renewable infrastructure has to be completely shadowed by active energy capacity…that has to be paid for while not being used.” This may have had some inkling of truth in the early days of renewable energy, but with today’s technology including smart grid and generators like GE’s new FlexEfficiency series, this is no longer the case. Read more at: http://www.triplepundit.com/2011/05/flexefficiency-50-ecomagination/

  • Chris B

    Barry, where do you get you’re 15% figure from? I’ve been living near a fairly large windfarm for years now and some of the windmills are ALWAYS spinning. On Sunday mornings only a few, but as the morning goes on and demand starts to rise you see the turbine gradually being started up one by one. Now that’s fitting supply to demand. It’s a question of building them in the right places.

  • Michele Stragà

    Do not think only about wind,sun,water,please consider also these projects that do not need these elements.With this mechanism i am confident to be able to reproduce an unbalanced continuos movement.This device coud revolution the way to produce energy.A financing is needed,is order to be finished.Why don t we try to create this prototype to get her?

    Michele Stragà

    If you are interested in,please contactme

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2qXEFDRW50

    • http://www.triplepundit.com/author/bob-siegel/ RP Siegel

      This looks like a clever device, but I’ll put my money on the first law of thermodynamics which states that energy can neither be created or destroyed. This means that any wheel, imbalanced or otherwise, cannot transmit more energy than what is put into it. “Perpetual motion” machines such as these have been suggested for centuries, but all eventually must obey this basic physical law.

      • CriticUKGermanComparison

        It has nothing to do with what you are suggesting! It is simply taking in more energy from the wind, it is more efficient! It does so by creating Reynolds vortex street downstream by means of the diffuser. This frees the air molecules and sucks them in. By your rationale then, no wing could be made to be more efficient than another at flight!

  • John M. Pisciotta

    How is this shrouded turbine concept novel over the Flodesign concept?

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMw0lP7RwUw Jerry Desaulniers

    The Vortex Wind Funnel is a funnel shape wind turbine that is better than this design watch this video and you will know for sure
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMw0lP7RwUw or visit http://www.vortexwindfunnel.com/

    • CriticUKGermanComparison

      Jerry: Regarding your links, they are a fraud. The large wind turbines are not supposed to run at fast revolutions. In fact, they have safeties to reduce speed if the winds get too high. Knowing about jet engines and their compressors this video makes me laugh. Nothing about this setup is like a jet engine and how it
      compresses air. That takes a force stronger than wind to achieve and
      much more in the way of parts. Another fraud.

      Do not scoff at the Japanese invention which is tried and tested and works according to a completely different principle. Thank you.

  • http://www.TigerGreen.co.uk Alison Tottenham

    As it is said “the devils in the detail” and in this case the detail is in the video. Having watched it, the results look good and the hexagonal design for the floating base will provide a lot of resilience – millions of bees do it all the time with great success. I am not joking, this does look like a good idea; and well done to the Japanese for going through the research so thoroughly. See also the Dyson air multiplier fan, if you doubt the effects on air of passing is through an aerodynamically shaped collar.

    • CriticUKGermanComparison

      I am not convinced by the hexagonal arrangement other than for stability. If you could use wave power, solar power and wind power in the floating base and they somehow did not disturb each other then that would be something to talk about!!!

  • Recbeck

    Brilliant, now if the US would seriously invest in wind power!!

  • alex

    have t say looks so much more attractive and less primitive

  • CriticUKGermanComparison

    Many interesting innovations are coming from Japan. This was covered on Science View on NHK World. I have seen it in the Linkedin NHK World Viewers page.

    In a previous science view (a year or so ago, or was it a Science Zero?) another Takumi (inventor) took inspiration from an owl. Owls hunt at night and mitigate their presence with the shape of their wings which produce less noise. The same idea (in this case cutting grooves on the blades of the wind turbines) was shown to reduce their sound. I wonder if both technologies/ideas could be combined? I mean, the UK accountant and barrister and historian led attack that “we cannot manufacture or develop products because our personnel costs are so high” is revealed as the excuse to keep this parasitic class (accountants, lawyers etc) in charge! consider that the cost of living in Japan is MUCH HIGHER than in the UK and they manufacture and now invent, and they are also finally leading in science. We must rebel in UK and seek to place Engineering as the top profession with the highest rewards! Make laws to unseat all accountants and lawyers we do not need these people!

  • Troll Boss

    This is similar to the idea that brought me here.
    I was thinking why don’t they make funnels around the turbine to focus the wind?