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The new 'Architecture Wind' system is highly efficient, features a bird shield, and looks stylish atop urban roofs.  (Source: Aerovironment)

A series of the devices sits perched atop a city roof. Aerovironment is look to generate interest in preparation to mass produce the product and bring it to market in cities worldwide.  (Source: Aerovironment)
While some wind power may just blow, Aerovironment looks to be sleek and stylish

Wind power is an oft maligned source of alternative energy.  One common complaint aired is that it’s not cost/resource effective.  On a similar track, people often accuse it of producing too little power to be helpful.  Finally, some accuse it of being too obtrusive.  Even some environmentalists knock wind power for allegedly killing birds that fly into the slowly spinning metal turbine blade.

While it can't change such opinions overnight, Aerovironment is looking to slowly warm people to wind power by providing direct solutions to the frequent criticisms. And in the process, it hopes to transform the face of modern cities around the world.

Aerovironment produces building-mounted turbines, smaller than those typically seen on wind farms.  By mounting the turbine structure to the tops of buildings, the benefits are twofold.  First, the cost in resources of building a pole to support the turbine is eliminated.  Secondly, the turbines can be elevated much higher, exposing them to stronger winds.

The nearly silent turbines snap onto the parapet of urban structures, forming a design that Aerovironment calls ‘Architectural Wind’.  The rows of turbines not only catch cross currents, but also the frequent currents that develop up the side of buildings.  The result is a 30 percent increase in energy production and even better, a great savings in hassle, in that the turbines are quick to snap in.

While the system is extremely well designed and efficient, many will be drawn to its style.  The system's curvy design looks more like a modern art sculpture than a cutting edge alternative energy design.  This in turn adds to the urban appeal.  Part of the structure even serves another utilitarian use -- the large metal plate over the turbine acts as a bird shield, in an effort to minimize avian casualties.

Aerovironment describes their product stating, "Architectural Wind is designed to install easily onto the building parapet, operating in plain sight as an attractive complement to the building’s architecture. Additionally, based on its proprietary system design, Architectural Wind turbines rotate at low wind speeds, resulting in a form of ‘kinetic architecture’ that communicates clearly the generation of clean energy. Working alone or in tandem with other renewable energy technologies, Architectural Wind is designed to offer an attractive ROI and cost per kW of installed capacity."

A module weighs 200 lbs, allowing relatively easy installation, but also ensuring that it won't blow away.  They measure 4 feet tall by 4 feet wide.  Installations start at 6 kW of power production and can be scaled up to produce much more.  Almost any rooftop is suitable to the nonintrusive installation.  The product is in development, but the company hopes to mass produce the new turbines on a large scale, making them relatively affordable, and ensuring the systems turn a profit in energy costs.

While wind farms leave some with little to be excited about, Aerovironment's new approach seems an intriguing fit to bring wind power to an urban atmosphere and start cutting costs.  



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I like it
By nvalhalla on 6/12/2008 10:00:13 AM , Rating: 4
This is where I see wind and solar going. I don't think that the huge wind and solar farms some companies are building will be cost or space efficient. I think people will begin providing their own power with these technologies, with nuclear and hopefully tidal providing the stable power for the grid




RE: I like it
By Master Kenobi (blog) on 6/12/2008 10:08:09 AM , Rating: 2
Tidal power is quite interesting and I think there is a lot of potential there. Far more than Wind/Solar anyways.


RE: I like it
By tpurves on 6/12/2008 11:03:09 AM , Rating: 5
I don't know, by absorbing lunar tidal energy you'll be sapping marginal energy from the moon thereby gradually accelerating it's eventual spiraling orbital collapse into the earth and killing us all.


RE: I like it
By therealnickdanger on 6/12/2008 3:36:29 PM , Rating: 2
Don't forget robbing the ocean of tidal power, thus destroying the oceanic food chain. We'll starve to death before we can evn see the Moon fall to Earth.


RE: I like it
By kontorotsui on 6/12/2008 5:45:14 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I don't know, by absorbing lunar tidal energy you'll be sapping marginal energy from the moon thereby gradually accelerating it's eventual spiraling orbital collapse into the earth and killing us all.


Wasn't that energy lost anyway (wasted) in attrition (wear) between the water molecules?
I don't see a way for that energy to "go back" to the Moon.

Even if you increase the Moon's spiraling orbital, what would that be? 200 million years earlier? In less than a century we're supposed to have reliable fusion power, we won't need tidal wave anymore. Probably we could even replace the Moon in an higher orbit in a few centuries, if needed.


RE: I like it
By hadifa on 6/12/2008 8:08:16 PM , Rating: 2
Mate,

He just forgot to put the <Sarcasm> tags,

Chill out!


RE: I like it
By masher2 (blog) on 6/12/2008 10:11:13 PM , Rating: 2
> "I don't see a way for that energy to "go back" to the Moon."

The tidal bulge forms a lower-energy configuration for the earth-moon system; resisting the motion of that bulge increases the gravitational losses of the system, and does increase the rate of orbital decay.

Still, having said that I don't see that the amount of that increase would be even measurable, even after a few hundred million years or so.


RE: I like it
By derwin on 6/13/2008 4:47:42 AM , Rating: 5
The tidal bulge does not form a lower energy configuration, the tidal bulge occurs nomatter what. When the tidal bulges of two gravitationally interacting bodies are aligned, it does (like Mercury and the sun, or our moon and the earth).

The "tidal bulge" you seem to be speaking of has nothing to do with the waves you see on the sea (however, the inverse is true, the waves are because of the tidal bulge...).

A tidal bulge is what happens because of the effect of gravity warping spacetime, causeing things in the axis facing the gravity source to seem longer than they are (kinda like how it would seem to take you millions of years to reach the center of a black hole? same thing), thus the object seems to get stretched along the axis facing the source of the gravity, creating what is called a tidal bulge. However, this is much more apparent on the smaller of the two objects (in our case, the moon), as the gravity from the larger creates a much larger tidal bulge on the smaller object than the gravity from the smaller makes on the larger.

Now, I'm only an undergrad physics major, so I couldn't even tell you exactly what math to do to understand the percentage of energy of the moons orbit we are sapping, but to get a rough estimate, consider the basic formula for potential energy of an object affected by neutonian gravity, E = mgh:
m = mass, g = acceleration of gravity, h = distance from gravity source to object (the crust of the earth).

The total energy of the moon above us is approximated as follows:
mass of moon ~ 7*10^22 kg
g ~ 9.8 m/s^2
h ~ 385000 km = 3.85*10^8 m
so, E = mgh = 7*10^22 * 9.8 * 3.85*10^8 ~=~ 2.64*10^32 joules (kg m^2 / s^2), or 2.64*10^29 killojouls...

So, consider that the DoE approximates the year 2000 energy usage of the United States at 90 quadrillion BTU, or or about 9*10^16 killojouls.
So lets say we want to run the United States alone off the power of the moon:
We could run that for approximately (2.64*10^29 kJ of moon energy/ 9*10^16 kg/year) 3*10^12 years, which is about 600 times the age of the solar system.
Its probably not going to be a problem; but then again, I am just an undergrad.

All sarcasm aside, the closer we pull the moon, the more the gravitation pulls of both the earth and moon affect eachother, however, there is also the consideration of the alignment of tidal bulges (storing potential energy). You really would need to ask someone more studied than I to give you a real answer, but I hope that my off the cuff estimations could put to ease at least the snap repulsion of tidal energy.


RE: I like it
By therealnickdanger on 6/13/2008 12:46:15 PM , Rating: 3
Speaking of bulges... nerdgasm.


RE: I like it
By Curelom on 6/12/2008 11:07:24 AM , Rating: 4
With tidal, though, we will need to put in fish shields. Solar power, we will need to buy the birdies some sun glasses. Nuclear, we will need to get the squirels lead suits.


RE: I like it
By FITCamaro on 6/12/2008 12:00:59 PM , Rating: 4
Squirrels are plotting to kill us anyway so they deserve to die. Yeah, them running in front of your car? They know what they're doing. They want you to swerve. Off a cliff. Into a tree. Into oncoming traffic.

Nuclear all the way.


RE: I like it
By Curelom on 6/12/2008 12:09:24 PM , Rating: 4
Oh they need to make a spoof of the late Alfred Hitchcocks movie "Birds" called "Squirrels"


RE: I like it
By Hakuryu on 6/12/2008 1:02:28 PM , Rating: 2
I saw a History Channel program about turbines that don't use any blades, and wouldn't need any shields like the ones in this story. Basically they were like tall cylinders, and the wind enters the side of the cylinders which had multiple 'scoops' around the circumference leading inside the turbine.

I looked quickly on Google, but dont remember the name of the guy or his company so didn't find a link. If anyone finds it, it is obvious the way the guy designed his turbines is leagues ahead of the ones in this story.


RE: I like it
By Hakuryu on 6/12/2008 1:04:35 PM , Rating: 2
Damn, no edit...

Also, the turbines I saw on that show could catch wind from any direction without changing their facing... powere from 360 degrees of wind rather than from one direction like the ones in this story.


RE: I like it
By Curelom on 6/12/2008 3:22:01 PM , Rating: 3
I think I saw that too. A Full production model was supposed to be like 1/2 mile high. It's a little like a chimney where the air sucks in from the bottom and out the open top. Fabric is used at the bottom to channel the wind.


RE: I like it
By Curelom on 6/12/2008 4:29:58 PM , Rating: 2
RE: I like it
By 67STANG on 6/12/2008 7:32:03 PM , Rating: 2
A company called Clipper Windpower is getting ready to install the largest wind turbine in the world off the coast of the UK around the end of this year. This single turbine generates 7.5MW of power. 7.5MW! That's nuts for a single turbine. It's massive of course, but that's a ton of power.


RE: I like it
By lukevader301 on 6/14/2008 11:47:27 PM , Rating: 2
RE: I like it
By psychmike on 6/12/2008 4:53:07 PM , Rating: 2
For a moment I thought you were thinking about vertical axis turbines which also don't have exposed blades. Anyone know the pluses and minuses of vertical axis versus traditional wind turbines?

Mike


RE: I like it
By Smartless on 6/12/2008 3:02:41 PM , Rating: 2
Was it something like a savonius?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Savonius_wind_turbine
Maybe the technology has gotten better on these. Heck at this point I'd take anything that can make use of the huge wind gusts on my condo. Some window-washers were having a blast the other day.


RE: I like it
By Einy0 on 6/12/2008 11:23:23 AM , Rating: 3
I say lets diversify our power production sources. The more energy sources the less likely we are to become dependent on one source ever again(ie. Oil!!!). Why not harness the power the earth gives us for free like wind and wave... And of course the power of the sun. I'd like to see a future where every roof top has wind and solar power collection. At least solar what better place to put solar panels than on wasted roof top space. Cost is the only factor holding me back. I hope that changes sooner rather than later...


RE: I like it
By aeroxander on 6/12/2008 11:50:35 AM , Rating: 2
There was a great show I saw, can't remember the name of it. Essentially they were talking about research going on to recreate photosynthesis. Basically we would turn our roof's into giant leaves. You'd go to your local home depot or whatever, and buy giant rolls of this stuff to lay on your roof.

It was a fantastic idea, I really do think we will reach this goal just a matter of time.


RE: I like it
By spluurfg on 6/12/2008 12:05:18 PM , Rating: 3
Doesn't sound like a fantastic idea to me... photosynthesis is the conversion of light energy to chemical energy. You'd need lots of water, and in the end you'd end up with sugars, which would then have to be converted into electricity, which wastes more energy.

Why not skip the unecessary step and use solar, or just grow stuff on our roofs and eat it?


RE: I like it
By heeros1 on 6/15/2008 2:55:07 PM , Rating: 2
I like the idea of photosynthesis, if they can make it work without loosing too much energy through the conversions, but the problem with solar panels is that they're at a little over 20% efficiency at the moment. there are companies though that build structures of mirrors and lenses to put on top of solar panels to increase the efficiency to about 40% (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concentrated_Photovol...


RE: I like it
By FITCamaro on 6/12/2008 12:01:58 PM , Rating: 5
Had environmental groups not paralyzed the country in fear on nuclear power, we might be a lot less dependent on oil for our power generation than we are today.


RE: I like it
By RjBass on 6/12/2008 10:57:04 AM , Rating: 2
Well actually it depends on how and where the wind farms are used. For example, just outside of Salina Kansas they are building a new wind farm. That wind farm wouldn't do much to lower Kansas City's need for fossil fueled electricity, but it will do wonders for the sparse population out there in farm country.


RE: I like it
By Stacey Melissa on 6/12/2008 4:44:37 PM , Rating: 2
I've noticed that wind farm springing up out of nowhere on the last few trips I've made to my hometown. I could hardly believe how many turbines went up, and in such a short time.

They should keep putting them up out in the western Kansas plains, too, instead of just the hilly area there on I-70. The plains winds are insane and practically nonstop, especially in the summer.


RE: I like it
By jbartabas on 6/12/2008 3:30:12 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
This is where I see wind and solar going. I don't think that the huge wind and solar farms some companies are building will be cost or space efficient.


A 6kW "unit" at 30% capacity factor could be an interesting offset for a standard household. Unfortunately I haven't seen a cost estimate (initial & maintenance).

They pretend that buildings (size?) could accommodate ~ 100 units so assuming such a building would have a comparable number of households, that could be a substantial source of energy. It remains to be seen if it is at an acceptable price though.


RE: I like it
By Spuke on 6/12/2008 4:37:27 PM , Rating: 2
I know the home units cost upwards of $30k.


RE: I like it
By MrBlastman on 6/12/2008 4:45:11 PM , Rating: 2
With economies of scale, I'm sure we could see a rather rapid reduction in price with widespread adoption.


RE: I like it
By Spuke on 6/12/2008 5:19:33 PM , Rating: 2
In my area, it's cheaper than solar and since it's windy more often than not (dead calm days are extremely rare), it's a pretty decent alternative to solar. Solar does edge out wind here with over 345 days a year of sun but it costs more (7.5kW = $50k). I live in a rural are too so we don't have restrictions on wind turbines (I think you have to have at least one acre of land to build a turbine).


RE: I like it
By Spuke on 6/12/2008 5:20:24 PM , Rating: 2
Need edit button! RURAL AREA


RE: I like it
By masher2 (blog) on 6/12/2008 10:14:53 PM , Rating: 2
> "With economies of scale, I'm sure we could see a rather rapid reduction in price "

Wind power in particular is expensive because the turbines require such a vast amount of metals and other resources per unit of power generates. Economies of scale aren't going to help that, in fact it will actually work in reverse, as building them on a massive scale would cause resource shortages, driving up not only their prices, but everything else made with the same resources.


RE: I like it
By AnnoyedGrunt on 6/13/2008 1:36:49 AM , Rating: 2
The entire unit only weighs 200 lbs. Considering the relatively few number of parts and small amount of material required to build a 200 lb turbine (relative to say, a car, with ~3000 lbs of material) then it seems reasonable that significant economies of scale would allow these to be ~$10,000 each (judging from the cost of motorcycles, segway scooters, industrial robots of various types, etc.) These units do not seem to contain any special materials that would cause a ramp in volume to begin to cause an increase in the prices of raw materials due to resource shortages.


RE: I like it
By flipsu5 on 6/14/2008 12:18:29 AM , Rating: 2
Is smaller turbine better because it is lighter? Can it be designed to catch more wind?


RE: I like it
By flipsu5 on 6/14/2008 12:16:11 AM , Rating: 2
Good points but need to consider isn't this rather general: for example, wouldn't solar compete for silicon wafer supply, driving up the prices there?


RE: I like it
By heeros1 on 6/15/2008 3:02:40 PM , Rating: 2
I don't know if that would happen, since silicon is a semiconductor that is extracted from sand (very abundant). But if that DOES happen, there are other semiconductors that might work (even if not as good)


RE: I like it
By Reclaimer77 on 6/12/2008 4:14:24 PM , Rating: 2
This is nice and all, but you know what ? California needs Nuclear power whether they like it or not. This isn't really a solution except for a small minority of people.


RE: I like it
By kfonda on 6/13/2008 3:04:57 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, lets put it on top of one of the fault lines.

Chernobyl irradiated more than 500,000 people between the initial victims and the 100's of thousands of soldiers/ miners, and others called on to try and clean it up. And on top of that the metal cap they put over it was supposed to last 30 years and is already falling apart after only 20 years. According to the Russian authorities involved, If the molten uranium slag had melted through the concrete floor and hit the pooled water underneath, the resulting explosion would have left most of Europe uninhabitable as well as a big chunk of Russia.

Don't get me wrong, I think nuclear done right is a great idea, just look at the nuclear powered subs, but I don't trust the government enough to fund and oversee it safely.

I just don't think the vast majority of people in this country care enough about there jobs to do nuclear the way it needs to be done. Just look at the recent news about the firing of the top military and civilian leaders of the air force. One of the things they were charged with was the undocumented flight of six nuclear weapons across a large part of our country and the disciplining of Navy sub officers for faking documentation about tests on the sub reactor.

With the current level of apathy, corruption, and even stupidity (think reality tv) in this country it would be very difficult to do this safely. When the government still had there own research labs, the people that were there were mostly there because they loved the work they were doing and felt a sense of pride in helping there country (such as the Manhattan Project). None of the engineers or techs were getting rich there. I know this first hand, I worked for the Army Advanced Research Labs for 15 years before the BRAC commission basically shut down our branch by moving it out of state, very few of the talented people made the move, most chose to leave the government instead, this is not the kind of talent that can be replaced easily. Now most of the labs are being shut down or staffed by low bidder contractors. They are closing down Fort Monmouth in NJ which houses the Communications and Electronics Command as well as several other commands that are critical to the support of the soldier in the field, especially during an active war.

Sorry for the rant, but once I got started I just couldn't stop. If you want, I could go on about the people that don't want a wind farm a mile off the New Jersey coast because it might look ugly from there beach front homes.


RE: I like it
By Zoomer on 6/14/2008 12:11:04 AM , Rating: 2
I seriously hope your post was meant as a joke.

Fault line: Just engineer to account for it. No biggie.
Chernobyl & Govt: I didn't know we had these USSR leaders for our goverment.
Corruption: There will always be some of it, and being unveiled is better than having it being kept in the dark.
Govt inattention: I believe most, if not all, power plants are privately owned.


RE: I like it
By SlyNine on 6/15/2008 12:01:19 AM , Rating: 2
Plus Homer Simpson could work at it, Comon I dont care what you say. after like 20 years of working there as safety inspector they never once had a melt down.


RE: I like it
By winterspan on 6/12/2008 5:21:52 PM , Rating: 5
Let me say first that I agree with you that distributed solar and wind energy will be a part of the future.

But the idea that large scale renewable energy infrastructure isn't "cost or space efficient" is just nonsense. Centralized plants are more efficient/productive in many situations for a variety of reasons. This is the same principal why there are large coal and nuclear plants. Every household doesn't have their own mini-coal furnace powering a 1500W steam turbine.

First of all, larger installations can utilize more expensive technology and techniques that would not be cost-effective or available on a "bob's roof" distributed approach.

As an example, the concentrated solar-thermal plants that use parabolic troughs to vaporize a liquid into a high pressure gas for traditional generator turbines can use expensive highly-efficient generators, they can employ advanced techniques to capture and re-use waste heat, and they can use special energy storage techniques like underground pools of molten salts in order to continue generating power at night.

Likewise, these same plants become more space-efficient and cost-effective as you scale up the production because of the large overheard and fixed costs.

Also with solar, by it's very nature, the vast majority of the prime energy-generating real-estate is empty, barren desert that can't be used for any other purpose. It's thus a perfect opportunity for large solar plants.

Wind, geo-thermal, and wave/tide power generation also are most efficient when used in large arrays.


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