The Windstrument is a new wind energy system that’s "quiet and powerful, bird safe, and scalable."

In nearly two years of trials, not a single bird was harmed by the device.

The shape of the turbine’s blades are called conical helicoids, inspired by the design of racing sails.

2012-10-12

Co.Exist

Finally, A More Exciting Design For Wind Power

Enough of the fields of turbines! The Windstrument offers a different vision of what wind power can be in urban areas.

It may be full of potential, but wind power is still a young industry with many design challenges that prevent it from scaling up. From an environmental perspective, how can designers and entrepreneurs lower the technology’s impact on local ecosystems? Bird populations in particular, can be harmed by the swiftly spinning turbines. And how can wind power be brought to a wider variety of landscapes, including urban ones, as opposed to the rural, mountainous, or desert areas where you typically find fields of hulking turbines?

A new manufacturer thinks its figured out the answers to these two questions with a new turbine design called the Windstrument. They’re hailing the product as "a truly affordable wind energy system,” that’s "quiet and powerful, bird safe, and scalable."

This last attribute is particularly compelling. The technology is compact and unobtrusive enough to be installed in an urban area for smaller-scale use. For homes or businesses who don’t require much power, a pole with a single, four-foot turbine would suffice, and a rooftop mounting option is available. But for the power needs of a whole neighborhood or an industrial complex, for example, many turbines can be added to a single pole, a configuration the company calls a “Windorchard.”

The shape of the turbine’s blades are called conical helicoids, inspired by the design of racing sails and capable of sustaining their functionality even in fierce winds. And unlike other turbines, the Windstrument’s design disperses the air in such a way that birds don’t get sucked in. In nearly two years of trials in a wetland heavily populated by birds, not a single one was harmed.

So far it seems the biggest problem for the company is scaling up their own production. Right now, they’re just able to produce "several thousand turbines a month. Our goal is to quadruple that, at a minimum, over the next year," according to their website. Unified Energies International, the Michigan-based firm behind the Windstrument, just announced this summer that they had patented the design and were working with a plastics company to bring the product to market.

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11 Comments

  • Eli

    hi . i saw the page some minutes ago. Wow! interesting. I've become very  excited to know about Windstrument's aerodynamic details. 

  • Veronica Fitzrandolph

    Personally, I think the big turbine blades are graceful and attractive.  The new Windstruments and Windorchards are also attractive.  That's not the problem though.   Bharath Duraiswamy mentions the problem of bat kills.  I don't have a link to any research either, but I have heard that the turbines create an area of low pressure and the bats, attracted by the insects flying around the aviation warning lights, suffer a condition similar to divers' bends.  "Their lungs burst" was the way one article described it.  So, do the Windstruments also create low-pressure areas that are fatal to both birds and bats?

  • Field ID Inspection Software

    This new design for generating wing energy may be an industry breakthrough. Wind power has a huge potential but its externalities such as noise and interference with local ecosystems is something that halts its development. The Windstrument innovation seems very promising. And it is very exciting to see if it's relly going to revolutionize the industry.

  • damspam

    Let's hope the USA takes this to market, and doesn't let it languish so the Chinese or Europeans can take it over.  We spend billions in oil tax subsidies, but getting help for fledgeling green industries is like pulling teeth.

  • Isabel ickering

    Awesome! Perhaps the perfect answer to those who don't like the look of the present turbines. That seems to be the chief objectio in "tourist" areas.....

  • Bharath Duraiswamy

    Bird safety? I don't catch the point. From what I had understood is that, large number of birds/bats are getting killed not because they are sucked in but due to the low pressure or vacuum created in their arteries while flying between the blades (unfortunately unable to highlight the research article). Also, these birds and bats are getting killed mostly due to the larger turbines (1 MW or 2MW and not the residential ones).

  • JonPeter

    I question the results. The low pressure areas are less than 1.5 psi below ambient and only located on the low pressure side of the airfil and for a few feet traling the blade. A 2006 Scientific American article discuss the impact on bats and cites 5-10 KPa (.0.72-1.45 psi) localized pressure changes.

    http://www.scientificamerican....

    There doesn't seem to be much of a follow up to this study and one hasto ask if lab tests under extreme conditions are being extrapolated to wind turbines where bats are unlikely to experience the low pressure zones. More likely the bats are attracted to insects near the safety warning lights at night.

    The issue that people are concerned with is considerable noise energy generated in the 20Hz or so range.

    http://theenergycollective.com...

  • Tukipuki

    I suppose that your last sentence illustrates exactly the point. Birds are less likely to be in a low pressure zone between turbiners blades with this system due to the size of the system...  assuming that your unlinked article's proposition has been been proved.