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Energy energy Wind

Go with the wind: patent pending for small spherical wind turbine

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by: Sharai Hoekema
go with the wind  patent pending for small spherical wind turbine

Recently, I came across an article that discussed a new patent that is pending for the so-called O-Wind concept. This is explained by its developers as being a omnidirectional wind turbine. Say what? Yes, that is right - a wind turbine that can catch winds coming in from all directions and will no longer depend on the good graces of Mother Nature or expensive and time-consuming ways of letting the turbine face the right direction. 

The O-Wind turbine was developed as part of the challenge set by the organisation behind the James Dyson Award. This annual award, bringing along a monetary prize of € 35,000, seeks to encourage young inventors and developers to come up with solutions that might make the world a better place. 

The futuristic O-Wind turbine captures wind from all directions

This year, British entrepreneurs Nicolas Orellana and Yaseen Noorani saw themselves victorious on the award night with their concept for a spherical, small wind turbine that is able to capture wind, no matter what direction it is coming from. It is futuristic, slick, unconventional and only measures a incredible 25 cm in diameter. Through geometric ports, it takes in wind; that it subsequently converts to energy that can directly be used in the surrounding area.

red O-wind turbine, Dyson, sand blue sky

Photo by: James Dyson Award

The applications for this invention seem endless and very promising: it is small and functional enough to serve crowded, urban areas, while it makes optimal use of the often unpredictable wind in those large cities. When attached to someone’s balcony, it might just serve to deliver at least a significant portion of that household’s needs - or feed the energy needs of the larger community.

As explained by inventor Orellana: “We hope that O-Wind Turbine will improve the usability and affordability of turbines for people across the world. Cities are windy places but we are currently not harnessing this resource. Our belief is that making it easier to generate green energy, people will be encouraged to play a bigger own role in conserving our planet.”

Combining science and great engineering

The basic idea of the O-Wind is pretty nifty. For its mechanical motion, it effectively employs Bernoulli’s principle, where the sphere-shaped turbine relies on differences in air pressure to generate its momentum. It has a large number of vents that the wind could run through, using three dimensions. These vents are placed all across the sphere, allowing it to function no matter what direction the wind is coming from. 

And once the wind reaches the turbine, it will enter through larger entrances and use smaller exits. When it is windy, the pressure difference between those two terminals will lead to movement in the form of rotation. The movement, in turn, will be used to feed a generator. This produces electricity that can be used locally or fed back to the regional or national grid, to be used at a time of shortage. For this, the owners of the turbines will receive a financial reward - another incentive for installing such a nifty turbine, while increasing the share of sustainable energy.

Its functionality makes it particularly suitable for, for instance, apartment buildings in urban areas, where winds can be erratic due to tall architectural buildings throwing it in chaos. The small size, probably best compared to a balloon or Chinese lantern, requires very little maintenance, while very little space is required for its installation. Another plus for urban use. It could quite literally be perched on top of anyone’s roof or the side of a building.

Next steps in wind energy

Innovations such as the O-Wind can bring urban energy harvesting to the next level. While Orellana and Noorani are currently developing and prototyping their spherical turbine and lining up investors, there are multiple other start-ups working hard to bring new, feasible alternatives to the market as well.

A fascinating initiative would be that of Maya Power, a fellow British company, that uses the wind in the tunnels of the London Underground to generate energy, using a flexible fabric. Or the smart wind turbine of Italian-based start-up Enessere, that learns from the wind patterns to optimise the power generated.

Wind energy is something that most people will find themselves drawn to, yet not many will applaud the idea of having a huge turbine in their backyard. This is why these smaller initiatives should be encouraged and cheered on: they are looking into ways of making wind energy accessible for all, whether it is from the use of tiny wind turbines, the O-Wind’s spherical turbines or other creative ways of harnessing the power of the wind.

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