Wind turbines are like skyscrapers: We're just using engineering to make them bigger and bigger, and no one has re-thought the form factor with any concern for economics. Building a 500-foot tower and adding 400-foot blades can generate lots of megawatts, but they're incredibly expensive to manufacture, difficult to transport, difficult to install, difficult to maintain, and limited in where they can be placed.
A company called Airloom Energyhas rethought the form factor. Their clever alternative design for a utility-scale wind-energy-capturing system features "unique geometry [that] generates the same amount of electricity as conventional turbines at a fraction of the cost."
Rather than a tower, Airloom has developed a sort of suspended NASCAR track. This track is mounted to 25-meter (82') poles, and has a series of vertical 10-meter (33') blades hanging from it. The blades are not attached directly to the track, but to a cable that runs the perimeter of the track. As the wind blows, the blades start to move around the track. The cable gets pulled through power take-off units that harvest the resultant energy.
Airloom's system can be built using readily available and conventional materials; no fancy composites are required. They cost 1/10th of a turbine that generates the same amount of energy, and are far easier to transport; broken down, the system fits onto a standard tractor-trailer.
The company also says an Airloom wind farm costs less than 25% of the price of a turbine-based farm, and that the end result is an electricity price of $0.013/kWh—which is about a third of the $0.038/kWh price offered by a turbine wind farm.
Most interestingly, the Airloom system could be set up over actual farmland, or directly next to power lines to decrease transmission distance.
The company has raised seed funding and plans to launch a pilot project in 2025.
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