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Electric power utilities are turning to cleaner sources of energy to meet rising consumer demand: worldwide, more capacity is already added every year from renewables — primarily from wind — than from the burning of fossil fuels.

Turbines clustered in commercial wind farms typically harvest fast airflows high above ground. In conventional models — those with three huge blades that spin horizontally like a giant propeller — heavy generators and gearboxes sit atop tall support towers to convert the kinetic energy from spinning rotors into electricity. This design limits the height at which these incredibly top-heavy models an economically operate - the material costs needed to build wider, stronger support structures, and the additional expense of maintaining components housed even farther above ground, may not be sufficiently offset by increases to production using taller models that capture even faster air flows.

In addition, the blades of a conventional turbine generate air vortices that interrupt the airflow to its neighbors, so larger models would also need to be sited farther apart to reduce flow interferences, on even more expansive wind farms.

WindSphere designs turbines that spin vertically like a merry-go-round rather than horizontally like a propeller. With a lower center of gravity, they are less expensive to deploy and maintain than conventional models.

Our design captures slower winds close to the ground, so each unit generates less power than taller propeller designs. But the unique turbine blade design draws from principles observed in nature to form synchronized air vortices along the entire length of its trailing edge; channeling more air toward neighboring units to minimize flow interferences, thus, boosting productivity in the overall array — much like the way that schooling fish conserve energy by leveraging vortices and disturbances from adjacent individuals.

So a spot that would typically be reserved on a wind farm for a single, three-bladed propeller model may now accommodate a densely packed cluster of WindSphere turbines to generate an equivalent amount of power more economically.

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Updated September 13, 2017.  All Rights Reserved.