Rediniotis: A Novel Wind Turbine
Jorge L. Alvarado
Othon K. Rediniotis
As a gentle breeze blows through the trees in your neighborhood, you might not think that this light air movement could power your home. Power generation from wind is often associated with faster wind speeds and large turbines. However, new advances in technology are changing the way wind power is being harnessed, and zephyrs, or light winds, may soon power homes across the country.
The solar power industry has seen significant growth over the last 15 years, particularly in the use of wind turbines for power generation. Many locations across the United States now rely more on wind energy than ever before. However, most of the generation is limited to large wind farms with hundreds of turbines, requiring huge capital investments. Additionally, conventional small-scale wind turbines do not generally match the efficiency of larger turbines, and small-scale turbines need stronger winds to initiate rotation.
Nevertheless, a demand still exists for small wind turbines that can serve the residential and commercial markets in a cost effective way.
Dr. Othon Rediniotis, a professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering, and Dr. Jorge L. Alvarado, an associate professor in the Department of Engineering Technology & Industrial Distribution, are addressing these challenges with a new small wind turbine called Zephyrgy.
A Novel Wind Turbine
Rediniotis and Alvarado’s design is based on standard turbomachinery principles. Zephyrgy is not standard in its design, however. Consisting of a series of up to four rotating rings around a single shaft, the rings contain the blades that spin each stage around the shaft as the air flows through the turbine.
In a conventional wind turbine, the majority of the power produced comes from the outer section of the blades. The Zephyrgy turbine capitalizes on this opportunity by distributing the blades along the widest part of each stage. Each of the rings, or rotor stages, work independently and decrease in size along the shaft, “funneling” the airflow through the turbine and potentially accelerating the airflow to downstream stages under optimum conditions. Because each stage operates independently, each stage can therefore rotate at different air speeds or wind velocities. In this way, even a small gust of wind would activate the smallest of the stages when a conventional turbine would not even rotate.
Zephyrgy improves the efficiency of small turbines and their starting performance by exploiting the wind to its maximum potential with each of the stages. Additionally, the components of the turbines are inexpensive materials that require minimal processing or machining. Ideally, this will lead to a product that is affordable and efficient.
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