You my recall a story we ran a while back about a quiet “secret” turbine designed in the UK for residential homes. Now, there’s a U.S. version under development by Solar Aero, a New Hampshire-based nonprofit that recently patented a wind turbine that uses boundary layers instead of blades to discreetly generate power.
According to Gizmag, this quiet turbine was modeled on the Tesla steam turbine, developed in 1913, and is known as the Fuller turbine. Virtually silent and completely enclosed, it overcomes many of the obstacles to widespread adoption faced by conventional wind turbines, including noise, radar interference, visual pollution and wildlife injuries. It works by using closely-spaced discs to trap moving molecules of air in a laminar flow adjacent to the disc surface, which provides aerodynamic drag, which in turn imparts force to the disc surface; by using multiple discs, the Fuller turbine is able to provide considerable torque to accelerate the rotation of a central driveshaft, directly coupled to an alternator–typically located at the base of a tower, or alternatively co-located on a rooftop.
While this new turbine is still in the pre-protype stage, it’s anticipated that it will be available in different sizes, with the smallest unit likely to produce about 5kW at 15 knots. Solar Aero projects the costs associated with their new turbine to be comparable to coal-fired power generation–around $0.05/kWh– which is good news for the mainstream future of commercial and residential wind power.
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