Bladeless wind turbines
Are they powerful enough to shake up the renewable energy industry?
20 August 2021
By Mariusz Bogacki, Researcher and Science Communicator, Edinburgh
Nowadays bladed turbines are the most common technology used to harvest wind electricity. The technology utilises wind to generate mechanical power using kinetic energy created by air. Unfortunately, this system comes with many downsides such as high cost of production, frequent maintenance, noise pollution and endangerment of wildlife. Moreover, due to their size and way of operation, wind turbines can only be installed in large empty fields or seashores.
Bladeless turbines offer a potential fix to these shortcomings, while simultaneously promising to generate more green electricity.
Bladeless wind turbines are basically tall and smooth poles that wobble when exposed to even the slightest breeze. The technology is an example of aeroelasticity, which is the science of interaction between aerodynamic forces and non-rigid structures – in this case wind and an elastic pole. These vertical structures harness energy from wind through oscillation, a back and forth movement that is capable of generating electricity. The inventors of the bladeless wind turbine call it “an environmentally friendly aerogenerator”.
There are many advantages to the bladeless turbines when compared to traditional propeller turbines: production costs are cheaper and they can be built from recyclable plastic; their maintenance cost is also much lower, as unlike the blade turbines they don’t require constant oiling; and their construction material does not deteriorate due to corrosion caused by the rain or salty water.
Their size also allows for much greater flexibility and adaptability. Existing bladeless turbines measure up to 2m in height, but a 140m turbine capable of generating 1megawatt of power, is currently in production. This means they can can be installed in many places where traditional wind turbines cannot, such as urban and residential areas. This way, bladeless turbines could also serve as a complementary source of renewable energy for individual households, harvesting green energy at night or during cloudy days when solar panels are ineffective.
Finally, the turbines do not present any danger to bird migration patterns or wildlife. They also don’t generate any noise-pollution.
Whilst the technology is still in its infancy, there are already a number of companies working on different prototypes in Spain and the UK. The Norwegian state energy company – Equinor – recently placed a bladeless turbine company on a list of their 10 most exciting green energy start-ups. The future of bladeless turbines might still look shaky, but the technology is certainly generating some excitement in the wind energy industry.
Imagery is attributed to EuroNews