Sheerwind’s simulations and computer models indicate that the Invelox technology can produce three times more power than a conventional wind turbine, while mounted on a tower at least 25 percent shorter, and using a ground-based turbine with blades 25 percent as long. Because the system is shorter, smaller, and has fewer moving parts than a conventional system, SheerWind expects to achieve savings of 16 to 38 percent per megawatt-hour (MWh) produced.
At 3.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, the technology is believed capable of producing wind power at prices comparable to new gas-fired generation.
Unlike the conventional tower-based turbine design (“you put the blade up in the sky and you are at the mercy of nature”), Allaei says that Invelox has the potential to overcome many of the challenges facing large-scale wind farm development. For one, the technology can generate power at wind speeds as low as 2 mph. This can make wind power feasible in areas where it is currently not.
The Invelox generators can also be sited close to urban centers of demand, and used in tandem with natural gas power plants. This configuration would enable utilities to manage wind power like a baseload resource.
Invelox also does not produce the vibrations that critics of conventional wind power claim contribute to “Wind Turbine Syndrome.” Citing a 2009 study of communities located near wind farms in Wales, Allaei explains that wind turbines generate vibrations at frequencies too low for human ears to detect, but at which some organs in the human body resonate, such as the heart.
“The lower the frequency, the longer the vibrations travel, like whales that communicate with each other from miles away in the ocean…. There is evidence that this can cause people that live near wind farms to get tired, get sick or throw up,” Allaei argues.
Of course, Allaei knew that there would be skeptics. Since 1992, he has founded six companies, including QRDC, a consulting firm specializing in noise and vibration control. With over 100 publications, 25 U.S. patents and 14 international patents, but little experience in the power industry, Allaei found himself having to convince high-level utility executives that his idea will work. “When I first started, I did not even have a business plan.” he said. “My first test was to see if people in the power industry could punch a hole in the argument that I was making. These are not shy people. If they don’t like your idea, they will tell you to your face.”
But Allaei is inspired and convincing; and his ideas are making sense to people who know the energy business. Craig Mataczynski, former CEO and president of both RES Americas and NRG, met with Allaei specifically “to prove that the technology would not work.” Now, Mataczynski sits on SheerWind’s board.
SheerWind has developed several laboratory prototypes and full-scale computer models, and expects to begin field testing in the first quarter of 2012. “We have received strong traction from customers during development; and if our claims are validated in the field, they will buy,” Allaei said.
He also envisions that the technology could be scaled down for quick deployment after a disaster. “It would have far more impact in our community and society than just as a money-making business,” he said. “Really, this [technology] can change the equation. It can change wind energy from an alternative to a main source of generation.”