By Rachel Ang
By Rachel Ang
The proposal is the Vortex, a bladeless wind turbine which looks like a colossal rolled up piece of paper pushed into the landscape. The Vortex does the same thing as a conventional wind turbine – turning breezes into kinetic energy – but approaches it from a completely different angle. Instead of capturing energy via propellers, the Vortex takes advantage of vorticity, an aerodynamic effect that produces a pattern of spinning vortices, created when wind breaks against a solid structure. Often this can be an incredibly destructive force, as vorticity can compel structures to oscillate wildly and in cases such as the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, eventually collapse.
In fact, the unique form of the Vortex was inspired back in 2002 when one of the Vortex Bladeless founders David Suriol, happened to watch a video of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge swaying and oscillating in the wind.The structure got caught up in aeroelastic coupling and collapsed under influence of the wind. Ironically, watching this disaster sparked the idea of a bladeless wind turbine. “We said, ‘Why don’t we try to use this energy, not avoid it,’” Suriol says. The team started Vortex Bladeless in 2010 as a way to turn this vibrating energy into something productive.
Vortex is more than a groovy design – it’s been designed to be as environmentally friendly as possible. The designers plan for it to have no parts in contact at all, such as gears or linkages, which they believe will make it cost-effective and easy to maintain. It will weigh 80 percent less than the current models in production, substantially cutting down shipping and installation costs. Once it’s at work, they anticipate that electricity will be 40 percent less expensive to produce than with conventional turbines. And although each individual Vortex is 30% less efficient in energy conversion, being bladeless means you can fit more in the same amount of space.
And lastly, because Vortex oscillates at a frequency below 20 Hz, it is completely silent. It is also safer for birds, who often perish from flying into the blades of wind turbines.