Hey, T. Boone, the Wind Wing is Here
Melanie Pahlmann reporting
Sept 8 2008
While oilman T. Boone Pickens installs thousands of turbines on his massive wind farm in Texas, a small California company is unveiling an invention that may revolutionize wind power production. The "WindWing" may prove to be a superior alternative to the wind turbine, for an impressive variety of reasons:
- It can capture energy with low-velocity wind (as little as 6 mph, roughly half the mph necessary for wind turbines)
- Its wing-shaped design makes it a more efficient energy generator than the propeller turbine (40-60% compared to 5%)
- It poses no threat to bird populations
- It is quiet, unlike the propeller design
- It can be installed virtually anywhere, which reduces the need to transport the power over long distances
- Its small size and low cost make wind generation possible for individual homeowners and small communities, helping to decentralize ownership of the power source
While we welcome the enormous amount of clean energy Pickens' 4,000 megawatt wind farm will disseminate to the masses (1.3 million households when the project is fully operational), we do well to remember that Pickens will personally earn billions in revenue from this endeavor.
WindWing inventor Gene Kelley is a tireless, enthusiastic visionary who believes that renewable energy can be produced locally and inexpensively. Wind energy, in particular, can be made far more efficiently than it currently is (and will be at Pickens's farm). Propeller-driven turbines are only about 5 percent efficient in converting available wind to actual energy. The 3-blade design offers a very small surface for wind contact. The wings of Kelley's WindWing offer a much larger surface, which increases its efficiency rating to 40 to 60 percent.
Wing units can be stacked vertically and their size can be customized in manufacturing, ranging from small models the size of a conference room table to large units the size of a jumbo jet. A small single unit could be installed in one's backyard, a "mini-cluster" of a few small units could power a neighborhood, and a "macro-cluster" of many large WindWings could power a shopping mall or factory. Remarkably, the WindWing is not limited to wind as an power source. It can be placed upside down in a stream, river or aqueduct and catch the force of the moving water. The weight and constant flow of the water could create 800 times the force available from wind, according to Kelley.
Kelley and his company W2 plan to launch a prototype this fall at the Santa Barbara Harbor. Meantime, W2 has signed a contract with Hawaii's Natural Energy Laboratory (NELHA), where the WindWing is being tested for performance in a variety of wind environments. Breadth of application is also being researched; the NELHA successfully powering electric vehicles, batteries and other energy needs with the WindWing. They are also playing with a wind-solar combo. Photovoltaic cells have been mounted on the wings, which create 24/7 dual power generation.
One final adulation about the virtues of the WindWing: the cost. A WindWing unit comes in at about one-tenth the cost of a propeller turbine. Kelly also tells us that a single WindWing can do the work of 12 propellers.