TOWERS, TREES AND WHEELS – UNUSUAL RENEWABLE ENERGY SOLUTIONS
Numerous companies across the world are coming up with novel technologies to grab their share of the renewable energy sector. Although most of these technologies just offer incremental improvements to existing technologies like solar PV, a few of them are determined to shake up the market with more futuristic and innovative designs.
THE DUTCH WINDWHEEL
This is a concept that was developed for a 174 meter tall building in Rotterdam. It’s meant to be a platform for a number of pathbreaking renewable energy solutions.
The design was developed jointly by the Dutch Windwheel Corp., Doepel Strijkers, BLOC and Meyers. It consists of two separate 3-D rings constructed from glass and steel, which were then placed on to an underwater foundation.
The outer ring has forty rotating cabins placed on a rail system. The inner ring is made from a unique wind turbine which converts the wind energy to electricity through a framework consisting of non-mobile steel tubes.
A consortium from Wageningen University and TU Delft developed the system. It uses an extremely high voltage to electrically charge water droplets in parallel placed horizontal elements to produce an electric field.
As the droplets are forced by the wind against the electric field, it charges the converter to generate a direct current. Although the technique has gone through extensive testing in the laboratory, this will be the very first time that they have used it in a building.
SOLAR WIND DOWNDRAFT TOWER
Another company based out of Maryland is developing a novel hybrid wind and solar technology which is meant to harness energy generated by downdrafts when water is sprayed on to hot and dry air.
The tower is a hollow and tall cylinder that features a completely integrated system for injecting water along with turbines in the wind tunnels at the base. It uses pumps to transfer the water to the said injection system.
Once it is delivered to the top, it is transformed into a mist which is prayed across the opening.
The water then evaporates after which it is absorbed by the dry hot air in the tower. This makes the air denser, heavier and cooler that the warm air that surrounds the tower. The cooler air falls through the cylindrical tower at high speeds before getting diverted into wind tunnels which are located at the bottom. It is then used to move the turbines and generate electricity. If the atmospheric conditions are favorable, the tower can also be built with vertical vanes to produce additional power.
French R and D company NewWind has come up with a wind energy system inspired by trees. The idea is to develop a wind turbine shaped like a tree to generate electricity.
At around thrity six feet, each “tree” houses seventy two silently spinning microturbines (vertical axis) resembling leaves. Each ‘wind tree’ has a 3000-watt capacity which can be fed to buildings through a main switchboard. It can also be hooked up to a grid through an inverter.
It is perfect for capturing the gentler winds (as low as 2 m/s) that is found in city environments. This means that the turbine can stay operational for the major part of the year.
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