There is good news on renewable energy. And this one is funny, too. A company called Vortex Bladeless, based near Madrid, has developed a small, pillar-shaped wind energy generator that can be used in small communities. Unlike a turbine, it has no blades. Instead, the entire body, a little over 9 feet tall (3 meters), vibrates at a frequency that produces electricity. Aside from the laughs we’ll get from seeing giant vibrators dotting the landscape, this is a great advance for renewable energy.
David Yáñez, the inventor of Vortex Bladeless, says their goal is to scale up to a 140 m tall turbine with the power capacity of 1 megawatt. The noise frequency is undetectable to humans (though I wonder whether it has been tested on dogs and other animals). It also poses no threat to wildlife or bird migrations. The bladeless generator can fit into places unsuitable to large wind farms. It could eventually be like solar panels on homes: distributed generation at community scale.
What if it’s a hoax?
Notice of this company came to me through the Download from MIT Technology, a free subscription that sends daily updates on emerging technologies. Subsequently I discovered a lot of skepticism about Vortex on the internet. I have neither time nor engineering knowledge to judge whether it is viable or just a hoax. Given that MIT was spreading the news, I took it seriously.
However, even if bladeless wind energy generators flop, there is still good news here. Namely, interest in renewable energy continues to grow, and many people are working to come up with new and better technologies.
What’s wrong with regular wind turbines?
Wind turbines of the familiar type have sadly revealed two major flaws. They pose a danger to birds; and the blades produce vast quantities of waste. Blades last about 20 years, but they are often taken down after only 10, in order to make room for newer, bigger turbines. The steel towers are mostly recyclable, but the blades remain a problem. They are built strong to resist high winds, which means they are not easily crushed or recycled.
However, there is good news here too. A company in Texas called Global Fiberglass Solutions has pioneered a process to break down the blades and reuse the material for flooring and walls.
At Nature Towns, we will be keeping an eye on both of these technologies that help to further the growth of renewable energy. Renewable energy technology is key to developing self-sufficient, resilient communities and a circular economy.