Wind turbines are a wonderful way to generate electricity, but most of the wind turbines installed in the United States and elsewhere are, figuratively speaking, monsters, requiring a special truck to haul the base unit and a crane to lower the turbine portion into position. Fixing them is even more iffy, since it requires working from a platform 200 feet or so off the ground in rain, sleet, snow or high winds.
Engineers have come out with a few smaller wind turbines, both vertical and horizontal – and one intriguing design even involves reciprocating motion with horizontal airfoils, but size and height remain issues. Not so with design engineering student Michael Tougher’s wind turbine, featured on Coroflot. This turbine, which looks like a whirligig mounted inside a funnel, tucks neatly into small areas and can reportedly be mass produced cheaply enough to make it ubiquitous in those off-grid locations that require electricity – areas like highway overpass directional signage, closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras monitoring traffic flow, even electric car charging locations, or any area designed to smoothe the morning and evening commute.
Tougher’s turbine is cleverly designed to fit within structures like bridges, columns, even abandoned buildings, and these elevated location offer much easier access than the typical 200-foot turbine and greater safety, both for the turbine and for people. In addition, their much smaller footprint means they can be wired in tandem to deliver off-grid electricity, which avoids the inevitable power losses of grid transmission. Finally, these wind turbines are unobtrusive, their mechanism and blades hidden behind a nozzle, and the blades virtually invisible at high speed.
These versatile, compact wind turbines have several other features that make them interesting for possible use of small wind generation, the first being that they avoid the long shaft and bearing issues of tower turbines, and the other being an external control system that helps keep these turbines compact and easy to handle. Tougher’s design seems to be a clear winner, and for those who want to try a hand at building their own, you can find instructions for doing so at Instructables. There’s even has a video at the end of the tutorial showing the actual turbine doing its thing.