By Tuan Nguyen
Posting in Design
The SmartWind Ridgeblaster is an aesthetically-pleasing wind power design that can be cheaply and unobtrusively installed on buildings and houses.
In the grand scheme of alternative energy options, wind power is a bit of an underachiever.
It's inexpensive, clean and you'd think with the ever-present abundance of gusts, we should be harnessing energy from wind much the way crops and reservoirs are replenished by a huge rainstorm. But the deflating truth is that energy from wind accounts for a mere two percent of electricity consumption worldwide.
One of the major detriments to wind power's growth has been figuring out a way to integrate wind power technologies into a populated environment without making people feel like they reside on a wind farm. Jim Post, an entrepreneur, has taken a stab at the problem with his SmartWind Ridgeblaster, an aesthetically-pleasing wind power design that can be cheaply and unobtrusively installed on buildings and houses.
The concept, one of the entries in GE's ecomagination Challenge competition, gathers wind energy using a wide horizontally-shaped wind turbine that sits atop the peak ridge of a roof. Strategically placed to harness wind from all directions while also blending into the structure (or at least doing the best it can to), the simple device produces up to 1.8kW of electricity. Post is close to producing a testable prototype and estimates that the technology would cost about 4,000 dollars to purchase and install.
Five winners will be picked and awarded $100,000 and potentially a bigger investment or contract from GE to further develop the technology.
Here's a video that demonstrates how the SmartWind RidgeBlaster works:
Related on SmartPlanet:
- Wind power's future may soar with flying wind turbine
- Infographic: How wind power works
- Electric car batteries can now power home appliances
Mar 14, 2011
I think we get the picture that it won't work on Hate's roof. That says nothing about the vast thousands of roofs that it could work great on. The oil/gas/conventional nuclear/coal subsidies and sweetheart deals are decades past their expiration date (note their record profits). The very fair and appropriate reason to subsidize wind/solar/thorium nuclear/lightning research and implementation are some of the same reasons we subsidized oil & nuke research and implementation back when (oh, except the alt energy sources I mentioned are hard to use directly for war...which is even more why we should research how to make alt energy generation cheap and easy round the globe!!!) Someone mentioned the battery/grid problem. Yep, the US grid is antiquated. It is used as a battery of sorts by all of the sources of electricity. There is line loss. There is corruption. There is defered maintenance. If you live where power is flaky, battery backup might be a good idea. If you are paranoid, get a battery and fret at the rest of us less. If you are an engineer that specializes in ceramics and wants to fix this problem, I know someone working on a solution. Unfortunately the DoE isn't kicking loose any dollars for the R&D phase of alt power solutions (brilliant, huh).
All sorts of solar and wind power are great. But what happens when the sun doesn't shine or the wind doesn't blow? Batteries, that's what. And batteries are still amazingly expensive for the amount of power they store over their life cycle. There are only two truely viable options for constant and plentyful clean power - nuclear and lightning. The newest nuclear reactor designs can quite literally be simply turned off. They're cheaper and very much safer. Just stop building them so near to fault lines and coasts. Lightning farming. Please search for "lightning" in Wikipedia. You'll find the most amazing numbers. And given the number of strikes per minute and the power of each, the flow might be so consistantly high that no storage would be needed. Tie all the farms into a worldwide grid and bring on the thunderstorms. When everyone talks about natural and renewable energy sources, why is lightning always left out of the discussion? It's free. It's always there. It comes in massive amounts. It's non-polluting. It's 100% natural. Etc. So why not use it?????????
I did question if it was practical for all parts of the country. This idea would work great in the American southwest in the vast spaces where there are few trees to reduce the wind and no snow to make the device use less. One observation about snow on roofs for lightning joe. They sell roof rakes for a reason. Not all snow blows off roofs during or after a storm. There is such a thing as wet heavy snow that sticks to everything. Steeped pitched metal roofs are the only exception. The moment things warm up the snow slides off. But snow sticks to typical shingled roofs better than you would think. We had hundreds of homes and businesses whose roofs collapsed under the weight of accumulated snow after we were hit with a series of storms this past winter. Do the math with me and tell me if this device could survive. For most of 2 months this winter I had 4 feet of snow on my roof covering the top 6 feet of the roof that I could not reach with the snow rake. That is 6 feet on each side of the ridge on a 60-foot long house. 4 feet deep X 12 feet wide X 60 feet long = 2880 square feet of snow. At an average weight of 12 lbs per square foot that is 34,650 lbs of snow and ice. Get a sudden melt late in the season and large chunks of it comes down in one slid. Would this device hold up to the pull of such a slid? The last of the snow on the ridge melted of a week ago, but I got another 3 inches of heavy wet snow yesterday. So if the device survived the winter I would have had no power for all of January and February and 2 weeks of March. And the device would have been jammed by snow from yesterdays storm so I would be down for a few more days until things thaw.
"I see lots of reasons here why it won't work, which reminds me about the 3 types of people in the world. 1. Those who make things happen. 2. Those who watch things happen. 3. Those who wonder what happened." ...This is an old self-serving burr that the Reich Wing loves. They all, of course, think that they are examples of the first "type." Which leads me to ask, what have YOU "made happen" lately? Or else, which of the latter two types are you, to be trying your best to shoot down the good ideas that others are coming up with? (See above for my own suggestion for an improvement. Maybe YOU should try doing that.)
How the hell is YOUR ROOF "kept free of snow and leaves?" The WIND blows them off, DUH ! And the same goes for snow as well, though I imagine there are modifications possible that would make it more fool-proof. I could, right now, give you a sliding snow-removal "plow" device (operated by rope from the ground), that would clear enough snow to keep the rotor turning. For people to come on and pan it because it may not work flawlessly WITHOUT their added input, is the sad legacy of an age in which corporations have progressively convinced us that we should expect to do absolutely nothing for ourselves, and still expect the world to let us live like kings. Those days, for good or ill, sooner or later, are OVER !
Why are so many people arguing that it's a stupid idea and can't work, especially for "them"? Look, no new idea is ever the 100% solution to everything for everybody. The whole reason for thinking and inventing is to make life better. "Dodgy ethics"? What the hell is that supposed to mean? Hates, I live in Minnesota and there are a hundred different way this could work. And the freeze and thaw that happens every year seems to leave most everything intact in my city(not counting the roads, which are meant to be elastic). Wind breaks from trees? Anyone who lives behind a wind break from the trees knows they've asked themselves on cold winter mornings as they step out the door, "Wind break my a@@!" The bottom line is standing around saying "it'll never work" only makes you part of the problem. If there are flaws that you see in the design, put that incredibly intelligent mind (that can tell something will never work from the brief description) into solutions. Oh right, I forgot. You LIKE being part of the problem.
Yes they can save me money. If I cut my trees down. Then you still have the increased costs related to the loss of the sheltering trees. The additional savings on the install still does not cover the added costs. Bottom line is my net energy use goes up as does my monthly costs. Sometimes the math just does not work in northern latitudes. The amount of sun light per day is lower than it is in Florida or Arizona and the math changes. Now IF my house was already clear of trees, so there would be no change in my heating or cooling costs, solar hot water would make sense for me. The math still does not work for solar electric, but the math for solar hot water works as far north as the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Ceramic doesn't rust. Yes, but ceramic bearings are not a cure all for mechanical systems. You are also forgetting the ice and snow. The sear weight of what accumulates on my roof in one storm would rip that thing off the house. If the snow did not destroy it out right what would keep parts from getting distorted? Try sealing water in a can and see what happens to the can when it freezes. Every little crack and bend in that design will trap snow. When the freeze/thaw cycle hits you will get ice that bends it out of alignment. What happens when a spinning object gets out of alignment? It either flies apart when started or it freezes up. No matter how good the bearings are.
1. Yes, I do know it will cost $4000 to purchase and install. If (and I do mean IF) the turbine saved me even 30% of my electric bill, that would take about three years for the turbine to pay for itself. 2. I did point out that I was looking at .75KWh when I made my estimate. 3. Exactly how much wind speed is 'maximum speed' for a turbine? I might note that the large-bladed commercial turbines have to limit their maximum speed due to the stresses cause by those huge blades after a certain RPM is reached. Smaller turbines, especially ones that don't use conventional propeller- like blades, don't have the same limitations and can turn at up to several hundred RPMs without damage--perhaps faster. I might also note that the average wind speed past my house exceeds 6mph and gusts frequently exceed 30 mph. So far, the highest wind speed recorded has been in excess of 90mph, but that's only when a hurricane came through. Now, I know smaller blades mean lower torque, which is probably why there's no reported reduction gearing, still, I don't see why that would significantly reduce the output of the system and if they expect a 50-foot long section to go as high as 1.8KW, then I don't see why a 20-foot section can't do .75KW--ok, maybe .72. That still makes the average more than a mere 360 since the sine curve would run at about 70% of max or just over 500W. That adds up to over 4400KWh which adds up to almost 6 months of my cold-weather electric bill and my electric rate isn't a mere $0.10 per kwh. 5. One way or another, you can and do if it's wired into the house correctly, since the power you make, no matter the time it's made, still comes off your meter reading either by slowing it down at peak usage times or turning it backwards at non-peak times. A better use, however, is to have the turbine first charge a battery backup system that can offer a limited amount of whole- house emergency power in the event of network failure (common during blizzards and hurricanes) and power stabilization during brownouts and surges (common during storms). Either way, you do realize that savings. If you ask me, $500/year adds up once the system is paid for. The simple fact that your monthly bill is reduced at all should be a plus in its favor. I honestly don't understand your argument about how selling the excess power back to the distributer is robbing others. Your increased bills are your own fault, because the electricity company has to buy their power from some source, whether it's a nuclear, coal or gas-fired plant, a wind farm or a hydro-electric dam. They are not required to pay any more to an individual than they pay from a conventional source. The tax break, by the way, is a one-time break to offset part of that original $4000 cost, so not even that is at your cost, but rather my savings. You're not paying the difference.
Re. #11 Vulpine said: My last month's electricity use was 767KWh, If this thing can produce up to 1.8KW/h, that means I could actually sell the excess back to the power company. Of course, my rooftop isn't as long as the one in the video, but even if it generated .75KW/h, that adds up to 558KWh or almost 73% savings over my monthly winter bill and over 35% savings over my average summer bill. I don't care about the subsidy, the simple fact that I use less electricity will save me money--the only subsidy so far is the tax break offered to install the system. Vulpine, I admire your enthusiasm but you really do need to dilute it with a bit of realism and moral integrity. 1. The device will cost $4000 dollars to purchase and install. 2. Its maximum power output will be 1.8kW. [Note: "KW/h" is a nonsensical unit. Energy is measured in KWh. Power is measured in KW]. 3. However the wind rarely blows at maximum speed so the average power you will get out of it will be less than 20% of that figure, even if you live in a fairly windy place. So that's less than 360W. 4. Over the course of a year, your 360W power source would deliver 3154KWh of electrical energy. 5. Assuming that you could use all of that energy usefully (and it's a very big assumption because the wind is not always helpful in blowing just when you want it), that same amount of electrical energy would have cost you around 3154 x 10cents = $315 to buy, like us conventional folks do, from the electricity company. What on Earth is the point of investing $4000 to save a theoretical ?315 per year? Oh yes, you can sell the electricity back to the electricity company at a premium in which case you (with the connivance of the government) are simply robbing me and others who have to pay for your pointless greenie foible through our increased electricity bills. Oh and I forgot the additional benefit you admit you will enjoy in the form of a tax break, also at my and others expense. Very dodgy economics. And very unsavory ethics.
It may not be suitable for everyone, but I can see this working at a seaside location - lots of wind, and it would keep the seagulls off the roof!
@GregGold: Every (or nearly every) type of energy gets subsidies. Oil gets about $18 billion in subsidies. Ethanol gets about $7 billion. If you are going to cut subsidies for wind and sun, will you cut it for everything else?
If I could afford to do it, I would have set-up a wind mill when we had to replace our house after it had burned down in December of 2008. But I just couldn't afford putting another $16,000.00 onto the mortgage, especially since my wife has been laid off from work. Great concept, but I live in Maine and would need a guarentee that it would last thru the winters we have up here, and that it would be much cheaper than a windmill.
Maybe he could add lightweight solar cells to the turbine blades and kill two birds with one stone, as it were! Also, if the top was vented, maybe strong rains would also spin the turbine at a fast enough rate to generate some electricity!
I see lots of reasons here why it won't work, which reminds me about the 3 types of people in the world. 1. Those who make things happen. 2. Those who watch things happen. 3. Those who wonder what happened. So when you launch into a diatribe of reasons why this will not work look at my list and check to see which group you are in?
ITSPOSSIBLE - I'm right there with you for solar hot water for domestic use. I built a drain-down system in '82 that kept up with 2 kids, multiple showers and loads of laundry. Drain-down is VERY efficient, although you definitely have to pay attention in the winter. It's down right now - lightning hit and having trouble finding a controller for the Sunspool valve - and we miss it. It paid for itself many times over. Maybe, just maybe, the Smartwind setup will work, I'd have to see the payback and service time though. It has to be more efficient than cells or unfortunately it won't fly (no pun intended).
@dave... In essence, you're talking about the sub-20-hz beat of a set of huge fan blades vs a much smaller set of actual turbines by comparison. Try envisioning the old turbine-style roof vent seen on most manufacturing and hi-rise apartment buildings, only stretched out and lying on their sides; this is more the style of roof-peak vent the article is talking about. With the smaller blades, the turbine will turn at a much higher rate of speed and you won't have blade tips beating the air around the mechanism. In other words, you simply won't have VLF with this design.
VLF vibrations going through the structure of the house. Such vibrations can and do make people sick. With wind turbine farms there is talk of not putting houses within a km or mile as the vibrations do spread out some distance. It doesn't have to be the rotors in the bearings vibrating but simply the wind buffeting the blades is enough to cause vibrations.
People, people. Leave hatesidiots alone. He has a position & doesn't care about the arguments. These questions are perceptual. That's why it's necessary to make solar & wind power aesthetically pleasing on houses with facades dominated by garage doors and located in cites blanketed in air saturated with the by-products of burning fossil fuel.
Hi, This smartwind device, for all the smart people out there would definitely work for many people like me. I installed solar system on my roof 20 years ago (36 vacuum tubes) and with zero maintenance sofar. It delivers and keeps my 800 liter accumulator in the cellar full of hot water up to 90 degrees celcius. Did not spend a penny since on sanitary hot water needs for a family of 4 and each a minimum of one shower a day. Please be sensitive and start to be open or go back to the stone age. My next project will be a new house with energy savings in mind, maximum insolation, solar energy and something like the smartwind generator. Thanks to people who keep believing in a better future for our children and brake there brains on it. Ton v.d.H
@GregGold: Any individual can save some portion of their power bill if they install some form of passive generation--even if all you do is have the central air's heating/cooling lines buried six feet underground. Solar works best in areas that get more direct sunlight, I agree; the southern half of the US could really benefit-- when your local trees don't block it. Wind, in the form of a roof- top turbine like this could also assist, though obviously areas like the plains states and normally-windy areas such as coastal regions will garner more benefit. A few places could use both technologies plus tidal turbines and others to offer more power that, when they're all combined, could eliminate a significant portion of our reliance on fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) for power generation. And that's the whole point. By generating ANY of your own energy, you save money for yourself in the long run and reduce the overall need for massive, pollution-spewing power plants. Oh, yes. I'm sure Hates and others will now call me a 'tree- hugger' for mentioning pollution, but there are many kinds of pollution that consist of more than carbon dioxide, smoke and ash. Even now we're hearing horror stories of how we in the US are going to be injured by the radiation spewing out of the Japanese nuclear plants damaged in the earthquake last Friday. If everybody managed to reduce their own usage by 30% through the simple means of supplementing their energy sources, the overall demand is reduced by 30%. As the technologies improve in solar, wind and other methods of generation, it becomes possible that the only real demand for centralized energy generation will be factories and commercial centers which alone count for more than half of all electricity used. My last month's electricity use was 767KWh, If this thing can produce up to 1.8KW/h, that means I could actually sell the excess back to the power company. Of course, my rooftop isn't as long as the one in the video, but even if it generated .75KW/h, that adds up to 558KWh or almost 73% savings over my monthly winter bill and over 35% savings over my average summer bill. I don't care about the subsidy, the simple fact that I use less electricity will save me money--the only subsidy so far is the tax break offered to install the system.
Look, Hates, it might help if you'd read the article. The bearings are ceramic. Ceramic doesn't rust. And looking out my window in an average neighborhood in Washington State, I don't see a single roof that this thing wouldn't work on, and without cutting down a single tree.
Hey Lars...Maybe YOU save 30% but the rest of us pay for it via the subsidies it takes to keep solar and wind going. I'm not fond of paying for someone else's energy usage. Take away the subsidies for ALL sources of energy and see how it shakes out. Solar and wind technologies are not there yet. I don't think wind will ever be any more than a niche. As solar generation becomes less expensive with more efficient and less expensive cell technology MAYBE it will become more than just a niche in geographic areas that have a great deal of sun.
It really helps if you read the article and view the video--for one thing, this turbine can't rust in place because there is very little, if any, steel in it. I do agree with the possibility of leaf and oak-tassel jamming, but it's possible that the turbine can be self clearing. Snow, too, could be self-clearing since, at least where I live, the snow almost always comes with a strong wind. Then again, where I live nor'easters are fairly common and have dumped record snows in the region the last two years. In fact, it's rare that there's no wind at all past my house, no matter the time of year. Maybe it's time you started to listen, Hates, as technology is leaving you behind.
Hey, Hates Idiots: You ever heard of SolarCity? They offer consumer leases of solar panels with ZERO down. I'm Average Joe Q. Public and I got solar panels on my house, saving me around 30% of my electricity costs.
I have trees that block some of the wind, but if I had this system, it would generate some power. Same with solar. Many houses outfitted with this would not generate as much power as the ideal house, but something is better than nothing, and eventually the prices will come down. This system would be good on isolated buildings with a battery that would allow some storage. To Hates Idiots, are you sure they can't keep it clean of snow and leaves? Are you sure it would rust? How do you know? It may be adjustable to avoid those problems. This looks like a prototype so maybe those issues will be addressed. Just because there are problems with the first generation doesn't mean those problems will last into successive generations. We don't still hand-crank our cars to get them started, or sit in an open cockpit to fly.
and then demand people cut down their trees to install solar panels and windmills. Those actions are incredibly hypocritical. If I clear the pine trees north of my house to improve the wind I also get stronger winds blowing on my house leading to increased heat loss in the winter. So I generate more electricity from the wind, but I also burn more of any fuel to warm my house. If I clear the oak and maple trees on the south side of my house to improve solar and my cooling costs in the summer sky rocket because my house now bakes in the summer sun. So I use more electricity for cooling. How is either plan good for the planet? With both plans my net energy usage goes up. Anyone who has done a proper project assessment would know these are not practical projects for people in my situation. As I said before, not all of us live in areas where these technologies fit. But know this. This summer I will be installing a small solar panel to charge some 12-volt deep cycle marine batteries for a pair of LED floodlights. They will be providing up to 12 hours of light to a riding ring in the middle of my land. The plan works because it is in an open part of my yard where I was planning on building a sun shelter for people to sit in while watching their kids take riding lessons. The solar panel will go on the shelter roof with the lights mounted on either end of the roof and the batteries in a waterproof box under the bench seat. As I have said before. For most people solar and wind are niche applications best used where running a power cable is too expensive, making the solar option more practical and affordable.
Assuming that coal and oil are finite what means can we use to generate power if wind and solar power are the domain of tree huggers. How long will it take to introduce new technologies that are efficient,more importantly when will they become available? If there was a war or natural disaster and oil and gas imports were disrupted just what would you rely on for your power?
It would not last one winter month on my roof. If it did survive I would get no power out of it for 3 months a year and it would be rusted in place by spring. Everyone who designs these things thinks all of us live in deserts where there are no trees to block the wind or leaves, snow and ice to jam a toy like this. I will keep saying it until someone listens. Solar and wind are niche power sources not as readily accessible to the average person as the proponents like to think. I like my tree-lined street and tree filled yards. They soak up CO2 and I refuse to deforest my neighborhood so some tree hugging hippies, talk about an oxymoron, can mandate we put solar panels on every house and a windmill in every yard.