“Bird-Safe” Wind Turbines May Soon Take Flight

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The impact of wind farms on birds has been a topic of debate and concern for many people for years. To many, wind turbines are utterly destructive “bird blenders,” while others don’t buy into that notion. (We’ll come back to that the issue later in this article.)

To help address the bird issue completely, Jerry Lynch, the president of Sigma Design, is working towards testing, improving, and manufacturing Raymond Green’s patented wind turbine, which is designed with the specific intent to be safe for avian creatures.

Catching Wind Power® (CWP) Compressed Air Enclosed Wind Turbine

The 89-year-old Raymond Green, who is a California resident and World War II veteran, felt strongly about entrusting this technology to a veteran-owned company, and the person of choice was Lynch, who is a former U.S. Navy serviceman.

This turbine design utilizes no exposed turbine blades, but instead a form of air compression cone technology. It’s name? Catching Wind Power® Compressed Air Enclosed Wind Turbine.

Sigma Design is a Middlesex-based company, and this project could create as many as 25 new technology jobs.

“We hope that some visibility sends some people of interest our way, and that we can figure out a way to fund it,” Lynch said.

“We just waited for a good windy day,” Lynch said of the preliminary testing done by his company, which has worked on alternative energy development with about 150 clients around the world during the last 15 years. “We collected some good preliminary data and put together a plan of what needs to be improved and done to commercialize this.”

This turbine can be produced in a variety of sizes, from small personal turbines to large-scale wind farm turbines.

Bird Deaths from Wind Turbines

Due to an unusually large number of avian deaths at the 31-year-old Altamont Pass wind farm, caused by old wind turbine technology that in some ways may actually attract birds because of its lattice structure, wind farms have garnered scrutiny for being destructive to birds. Most wind farms do not kill nearly as many birds as Altamont Pass, however.

Wind turbine bird deaths are actually rare compared to window-caused ones. This may be because wind turbines are obvious, and windows are transparent. Birds fly into windows because they can’t see them.

On top of the fact that Altamont Pass wind farm is 31 years old, and was built when the United States wind industry was still in its infancy (it was one of the earliest wind farms), that wind farm was built right in the place of a bird migratory path.

Altamont Pass bird fatalities account for up to half of all wind-farm caused bird fatalities in the United States combined! So, that wind farm really was built in the wrong place, and with the wrong technology.

Nonetheless, a new wind turbine design that kills fewer birds would be nice… if it can compete with mainstream wind turbines and help to shut off truly deadly coal and natural gas power plants a little quicker.

Source: Daily Record

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Nicholas Brown

Has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, and geography. His website is: Kompulsa.com.

Nicholas Brown has 594 posts and counting. See all posts by Nicholas Brown

11 thoughts on ““Bird-Safe” Wind Turbines May Soon Take Flight

  • Dear Nicholas,

    Thanks for putting the bird issue into context. It would not be a bad idea to do the same for the wind compression.

    The last 15 years I have seen countless varieties of the funnel design come up in the RE media. All of the companies pushing these designs disappeared without a trace.

    It is not that hard to google “wind compression” or “wind turbine funnel design” or to find a wind energy expert and ask some questions.

    • Take a look at the design and you see why.
      1) The wind cone is much larger than the dia of the blades. Normall 2x-3x, plus all that side material (metal). More weight at top means stronger tower.
      2) the turbine plades and generator are cantileveled off the tower in one direction instead of balanced. Means tower must be a lot stronger.
      3) Part of the force of the wind hitting the side wall is converted to lateral load on the tower, not into increase wind speed. Meaning again a stronger tower.
      While (2) can be solved by moving the pivot point, and adding fins so the wind turns the big end into the wind. It add more weight. So the cost and weight of that extra material is what is keeping these things on the drawing board.

      • Good work! These are exactly the considerations that are missing from the article.

        I never understand why RE journalists and bloggers are so uncritical of these vapourware firms. Is it their lack of background knowledge? Their enthusiasm for a possible silver bullet technology? Laziness? Or is it that nowadays rephrasing a press-release is already considered to be good journalism because it is at least not copying directly?

        I don’t want to be mean to Nicholas, but I am a bit frustrated with these kind of uncritical articles.

        • Could you show me what your research revealed about this type of turbine?

          Did you expect me to criticize this turbine design based on the faults and fate of old, failed designs?

          Not all designs are equal, and as is the case with all technology, there was a time when wind turbines were not viable.

          How do you know that this design is the same as the older compression designs?

          I was just reporting the invention of a new design.

          Some people are willing to go to the trouble of digging up dirt on these things, but, it really is a lot of trouble, and information about whether or not technologies are vapourware takes a while to surface, so we will have to find out later if it is.

          You can also share an example of your work, if you please so that I can learn from it.

          • Nicholas, just to be clear I was not trying to shoot at your post. I was making a engineering WAG (wild ass guess) on why we have not seen these designs move forward. It is also possible that it has all be a case of, “haven’t seen that before, so we can’t fund that”. While I’m a engineer, I don’t design wind turbines. For instance I could not tell you why the industry has settled on 3 blades being best, verse say 4 or 5, and why that answer doesn’t change as the turbines get bigger. I have a guess, but don’t know. Weight and blade interaction (turberlance)?

          • Contrary to popular believe the yield is not proportional to the number of blades, in reality adding more blades improves the yield only marginally. With more than three blades you have a lot more costs, not only for the blades themselves, but also for needing a stronger axis, stronger motors for rotating the tower head and a stronger tower. The few extra kWhs that you gain do not compensate for that. With one or two blades the mechanical loads are is unevenly spread, also making a stronger axis and tower necessary. If you look at a turbine with one or two blades from the side, the blades seem to disappear and reappear which is unpleasant to look at, which helps to create NIMBYs.

          • I am not doing research in this field, nor am I a journalist, but I have been following the renewable energy field for quite some time now. And I have seen similar claims over and over again. In a large number of cases the designs could only have worked if our current understanding of physics was totally wrong. In many cases investors were sought (and probably ripped of). It frustrates me because it gives the whole field a bad name.

            There is this saying: “exceptional claims require exceptional prove.” You turn this around and say it is up to me to disprove the design.

            The added value of a newspaper, a blog or other news medium is that some context is provided and some plausibility checks are carried out. That is not the same as automatically rejecting new ideas, as you seem to suggest. A critical approach is indeed (a bit) more work than just paraphrasing a press release. Well, being good in what you do requires work.

    • When our great wind turbine laboratory, Altamont Pass wind farm, was starting up about 30 years ago I got to drive past it a few times a year. There was a large variety in the turbine designs installed. Two, three, more-than-three blade horizontals. Great whirling eggbeater verticals. It was an amazing collection of spinning sculpture.

      Over the years the two-blade turbines became the industry standard. Clearly that is because one gets the most electricity for the least amount of money. That is the statistic that counts.

      I keep seeing these photoshopped ideas appear, but like Hans says, they just fade away.

      I’m not saying that we should not try new ideas. Not saying that at all. But I would suggest that we not get excited about a new design until someone has shown that it works and that it is competitive. A few drawings and a strong verbal argument is not enough.

  • Those old ‘bird killers’ at Altamont Pass are being taken down and replaced with taller towers and slower moving blades. The process is well underway and should be completed in a year or so.

    The problem at Altamont was partially due to grid structure rather than monopod towers. Grid towers gave raptors places to perch while watching for prey on the ground, and then the birds would launch through the lower to the ground and harder to see fast rotating blades.

    Something to note – those turbines at Altamont Pass were installed about 30 years ago and they have provided almost free electricity after their 20 year payoff. Newer turbines are better designed to be longer lasting and require less maintenance. No one should be surprised if they give us 20 or more years of close-to-free electricity. (Remember, no fuel required.)

    We currently price wind power at $0.05/kWh. But if you give wind turbines credit for up to 40 years output the price is really more like $0.025/kWh. And that price is fixed over the 40 years, it will not rise appreciably with inflation or increases in fuel prices. Installing wind today locks in very cheap electricity for decades.

    Five cents at 3% inflation over 40 years rises to over eight cents.

    Eight vs. two and a half.

  • The website wind-works by Paul Gipe has several interesting articles about concentrator wind turbines and why they don’t work that well in praxis.

    • Paul does have a very good site with a lot of excellent information.

      Let me stick up the link for those who might want to dive deeper into some of the renewable energy issues.


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