Check Out This Bird-Friendly Bladeless Wind Turbine

Does a wind turbine have to have one of those pinwheel-looking blades that spins around to be called a turbine? It depends what definition you go by.

Meet the Vortex Bladeless, a wind ‘turbine’ without blades, developed by a group of inventors at a Spanish tech startup. This new wind energy solution looks more like a giant golf tee then a wind turbine.

Its inventors — David Suriol, David Yáñez and Raul Martín — describe it as “[a] more efficient, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly way to produce energy.”

It has no moving parts, so how does it work? Basically, Vortex Bladeless consists of a conical cylinder fixed vertically with an elastic rod. The cylinder oscillates in the wind, which then generates electricity through a system of coils and magnets.

Vortex Bladeless explains:

“Our device captures the energy of vorticity. As the wind bypasses a fixed structure, it’s [sic] flow changes and generates a cyclical pattern of vortices. Once these forces are strong enough, the fixed structure starts oscillating, may enter into resonance with the lateral forces of the wind, and even collapse. Instead of avoiding these aerodynamic instabilities our technology maximizes the resulting oscillation and captures that energy.”

How does this new wind energy solution compare to traditional wind turbines? Instead of the usual tower, nacelle and blades, the Vortex Bladeless has a fixed mast, a power generator and a hollow, lightweight and semi-rigid fiberglass cylinder on top.

Sounds promising, but is it improving upon traditional turbines or just offering another way to accomplish the same thing?

According to Vortex Bladeless, it’s technology saves 53 percent in manufacturing costs and 51 percent in operating costs compared to conventional wind turbines. That makes sense, since it has no gears or bearings to make or fix. Wear and tear is less of an issue, and because there is no contact between moving parts, there is no friction, therefore no lubricant is required.

But does the Vortex Bladeless produce as much (or more) energy as conventional wind turbines? That’s where the new technology falls short, sort of. Here’s what Wired shared about the Vortex Mini, which stands at around 41 feet tall and can capture up to 40 percent of the wind’s power: “Based on field testing, the Mini ultimately captures 30 percent less than conventional wind turbines, but that shortcoming is compensated by the fact that you can put double the Vortex turbines into the same space as a propeller turbine.”

So while the Vortex produces less power than conventional wind turbines, you can fit more of them in the same amount of space, which means more power per square foot.

Another potential positive: apparently the Vortex is safer for birds, because it doesn’t require the same type or magnitude of movement as the traditional wind turbine, allowing for higher visibility. So much so, the company boasts that several environmental advocacy groups, including the SEO Birdlife Association, are actively supporting Vortex’s mission.

It’s been said before that wind turbines are basically bird death traps – and often they cut through prime flying space making the carnage even worse. Smithsonian investigated that claim and came up with a study which cited somewhere between 140,000 and 328,000 birds die each year from collisions with wind turbines.

With nothing spinning and a smaller girth it makes sense that less birds would be harmed by the Vortex.

The Vortex is also virtually silent; With the oscillation frequency of the equipment below 20Hz, the impact sound level is nonexistent, opening the possibility to make the future wind farms completely silent.

When it comes to wind power, it appears that both turbine models have their merits. In 2014, 39.1 percent of the electricity used in Denmark came from conventional wind power, more than double what it was a decade ago, setting a new world record in renewable energy production from wind in the process. Even the Eiffel Tower is hip to wind power.

Suriol’s take: “We can’t say anything bad about conventional wind turbines; they’re great machines. We’re just proposing a new way, a different way.”

The first Vortex products will be focused on small-scale production, and should be ready to be produced in about a year, according to the company blog.

Whether you prefer your wind turbines with or without blades, it sounds like wind power is blowing one step closer towards sustainably powering the world. Just because conventional turbines aren’t broke, that doesn’t mean that tinkering, innovating and improving should cease. Consider us lucky that inventors didn’t stop at the first telephonecomputer or car.

Technology and innovation are travel partners through time, co-dependent entities that lead society to greener pastures. Without innovation, technology would be stuck in time, success measured by its last, not next, breakthrough.

So keep the innovations coming. Some may work, some not so much, but try we must because every improvement is a step closer to the sustainable future we require, if there’s going to be a future at all. And even the failures can produce valuable lessons that will inform future innovations down the line.

Photo Credit: Vortex

182 comments

Warren Webber
Warren Webber3 years ago

Awesome!

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Julia Cabrera-Woscek

This is so awesome! I am glad they will work it out.

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Melania Padilla
Melania P3 years ago

Awesome!

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Joseph Belisle
Joseph Belisle3 years ago

I heard about these. They sound awesome.

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Azaima A.
Azaima A3 years ago

It's about time.

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Jonathan Y.
Jonathan Y3 years ago

This one is for the birds....

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Marcia Geiger
Marcia Geiger3 years ago

Sounds like a great project to pursue...we need to continue to improve on non fossil fuel energy sources without impacting wildlife

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Gwen G.
Gwen G3 years ago

Thank you so much!!

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Magdalena C.
Past Member 3 years ago

Thank you!

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