Wind power fixed
Wind power accounts for 4% of the world’s energy demand and yet it has a few major drawbacks. One of those is that wind turbines are only adept at capturing horizontal winds.
Whilst this is not an issue when erecting a turbine on a hill or at sea but if we are to bring wind power into towns and cities then it presents a substantial challenge. Wind whips about in urban places, up and around buildings, down alleys and through stairwells. It is not easy to capture, but if we can then the rewards will be worth it.
Now we might have a new way to do it courtesy of the O-Wind Turbine which has won this year’s James Dyson Award for exceptional designs which solves pressing issues.
The inventors, Nicolas Orellana and Yaseen Noorani from Lancaster University, set out to harvest wind power from cities in such a way that it could be plugged into homes or the larger power grid.
Noorani said of the goal: "If we could find a solution that caters for the half of the world's population who live in cities, we could give these people an opportunity to generate their own energy and contribute to the environment.”
The inspiration for a multi-directional wind harvesting machine came from NASA’s Tumbleweed Mars rover which was designed to roll around the surface of the red planet to measure atmospheric conditions. Crucially, the rover could bounce around in any direction.
The O-Wind Turbine is a 25cm spherical device on a fixed axis which can spin in any direction the wind blows thanks to the geometric structure of its vents. This triggers a generator which converts the wind energy into electricity.
"Current wind turbines are expensive to set up, meaning they are often only bought and owned by private companies," said Orellana.
"Using low-cost and sustainable materials like recycled plastic we hope to produce the O-Wind Turbine at a low cost, allowing it to be sold at a price accessible to everyone."
Finding ways to embed sustainability in our lives on every level – both macro and micro – is going to be key to ensuring the successful future of human society. The challenges are real and the solutions will be complex, but innovations like this offer much hope.