A Japanese research effort that’s been around for a while has gotten a blast of media fame this week, claiming the potential to triple power generation by using a ring around the blade-swept disc that focuses wind past the blades, as well as, I think, capturing some of the energy off the blade tips. Sounds great in a headline, but as with most new turbine design “breakthroughs,” this one is early in R&D: the field trial models are only 5kw, with two 100kw, 13m-diameter, models recently erected. Whether the design can scale up, or be constructed economically in large arrays of smaller units, remains to be seen. The weight of the ring has to be a challenging design feature when it comes to actually building large versions of this in the real world. Nearly every efficiency-improvement approach also touts a reduction in noise output as one of the benefits.
The best coverage of the “Wind Lens” research appeared on Clean Technica; they included these links to the lab’s research page and a conference poster. For good measure, here’s a couple other new approaches to increasing turbine efficiency previously covered in Clean Technica, with equally uncertain futures. More power to all these researchers, whether in university labs or backyards. Just don’t assume that a catchy headline means the revolution is neigh. (Being a dreamer, I remain quite fond of ongoing research in California that seeks to harness extra energy by mimicking fish schooling patterns with small vertical-axis turbines, as covered previously here.)