Vertical-Axis Turbine Sails Into Wind Market

“Every commercial building can power itself,” Elizabethtown, Ky.-based Wind Energy announces on its website homepage. And yep, the company thinks wind is the way to do it, using its new WindSail turbine, engineered with help from Segway-developer Dean Kamen’s DEKA Research. And unlike Kamen’s seemingly fanciful inflatable wind turbine, Wind Energy is ready to bring its product to market.

Wind Energy describes the device as a “drag-based” turbine – with its spiraling, upright “sails” grabbing the wind and being pushed into rotation. “As it turns, energy is transferred from the sail surface to the central shaft in the form of torque,” the company said. “Since it has a relatively large surface area, the result is quite impressive, even in light winds.”

WindSail vertical-axis wind turbine, Wind Energy

image via Wind Energy

Like all vertical-axis turbines, the WindSail also has the advantage of not needing to be pointed to face the wind. As Wind Energy put it, “The turbine is always facing into the wind.” Other benefits the company cites: It’s quiet, bird-friendly and looks dang sharp, able to be customized with company “logos, graphics and colors.” (See the short video below for what they have in mind.)

There’s good reason to explore the possibilities with vertical turbines: A recent study by researchers from Caltech suggested that shorter vertical-axis turbines, placed in a tight array with each turbine turning in an opposite direction to its neighbors, can be at least 10 times as efficient as horizontal turbines.

And Wind Energy is hardly the only player in this emerging field: Sauer Energy in September launched WindCharger, a three-blade turbine manufactured from UV-protected lightweight composite, resin and plastic that is designed to be integrated unobtrusively into existing residential and small commercial buildings. Like the WindSail, the WindCharger is said to generate power well at low wind velocities.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

  • Elliott Heimel

    Something about the Vertical that makes great sense. http://energyreviewsinfo.com

  • Doug Fyfe

    An interesting article which can open new doors for wind-produced energy. The great advantage is that such small, vertical axis turbines are more resilient to turbulence and indeed may be efficient in turbulence, great if installed on a roof.

    Roof owners : remember that the power exercised by the wind to generate power has to be absorbed by the connection-point to the roof so make sure it is sufficiently sturdy.

    Ground-mounted equipment has a natural place at garages and convenience stores, which for decades have had their whirly advertising signs in full view (obviously) of the general public.

    This could be a real go-er !

  • Michael

    Wind test site at North Cape, PEI, had VATs for years, but now PEI is blossoming with HATs. Must be something in that.