Towerless Turbine? Oklahoman Says OK

While some companies and researchers are trying to figure out ways to capture powerful, consistent high-altitude winds to generate power, and today’s big developments typically use towers that rise several hundred feet into the air, Next-Gen Wind is keeping its feet – and its turbine – firmly on terra firma.

The Oklahoma City company has developed a ground-based wind power turbine that it says can increase wind velocity by 79 percent and produce nearly twice the energy of a traditional tower-based turbine with the same swept area. The turbine, featured recently in The Oklahoman newspaper, is the brainchild of Dr. Scott Calhoon, a surgeon who works as a consultant now – but clearly spends a lot of time dabbling in wind.

Next-Gen Wind ground-mounted wind turbine

image via Next-Gen Wind

So how’s it work? According to the company, the funnel shape to the wind collection unit increases the volume density of the air mass, forcing it through a smaller tunnel where the multiblade wind energy collection rotors and generators are located. “The resulting concentration allows for optimal generating wind velocities, and provides the opportunity to harvest a larger fraction of the kinetic wind energy passing through the system, when compared to a traditional tower-based wind turbine platform,” the company says.

The assumption behind the project is that there are situations where it would be easier, less expensive and less environmentally invasive to generate power at ground level, rather than atop a tower.  While ultimately Next-Gen imagines its turbine being part of utility-scale wind power plants, the company initially plans to focus on rural development and remote energy consumers, oil and gas exploration/production sites, irrigation and small farming.

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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.

  • Mcivor444

    What if the wind changes direction?u00a0n

    • Great question, Mcivor444. You don’t see it in the version pictured, but the company apparently has a refined designed that puts the entire machine on a platform that can rotate to take advantage of the prevailing winds.

  • Foo3fighter9

    How is this better, if it still uses blades?  At first glance, I thot it was a wind-concentrator only, and the energy capture/manufacture mechanism was not overt blades…..then saw it DOES have blades…..how does this reduce injury to bird populations?

    • Jeffhre

      You reduce injury to birds by not siting turbines along their migratory routes.

      • Pete Danko

        Jeffhre– that’s a good point; siting is far and away the most important factor when it comes to building wind that has minimal bird/bat impact. I should also note, Foo3Fighter9, that neither the inventor of this machine nor the story makes any blanket claim that this style of turbine will “reduce injury to bird populations.” Any obtrusive structure—wind turbines, transmission towers and wires, tall buildings, you name it — could be an issue for birds or bats. What the inventor has suggested is that this style of turbine might be “less environmentally invasive” “in some situations.” This could mean less shadow flicker and viewscape degradation in situations where towers several hundred feet tall are undesirable. Also, there are some habitats where the tall towers are thought to be particularly undesirable.