Giant Funnel Generates Power from ‘Slow Wind’

SheerWind, a Minnesota-based wind energy company, has developed a striking tower funnel structure that generates power from slow wind. This week, SheerWind was one of 14 startups to be chosen by Energy Excelerator, a clean technology accelerator that awards monies to start-ups addressing energy innovation in Hawaii and the greater Asia Pacific region.

The design resembles a large funnel tower, which the company calls “Invelox” for increased velocity, that is able to capture and concentrate wind as it blows across the structure. The funnel is able to channel the wind downward into the base, which increases the speed of the wind. At the bottom of the structure the wind passes through turbines and generates power. The wind then moves through a series of diffusers to slow it down before it exits the structure.

SheerWind says it can deliver wind energy at 75% the cost of conventional large turbines. Its funnel technology is able to capture wind coming from any direction and accelerate the speed of that wine 3 to 6 times as it travels through the structure towards the turbines.

One of the major benefits of this design is that low wind speeds can be used to generate energy. Conventional turbines require wind speeds of 8 miles per hour or more. The Invelox structure requires only 2 mile per hour winds to generate electricity. The turbines themselves are 89% smaller than conventional wind turbine devices, which helps reduce the total amount of area needed for wind generation, and helps to reduce costs of running the turbines. And the energy generation process can occur in locations in close proximity to where the energy is needed, for example in urban settings or even on rooftops.

The turbines are also bird- and bat-friendly because the blades are smaller and don’t generate the low-frequency vibrations that confuse birds and bats. The turbines themselves are also housed within the base of the funnel, so animal passers-by aren’t likely to run into the turbines. There’s nothing but its shape to stop birds or bats or other flying creatures from entering the funnel, but SheerWind has designed nets that can be placed within the funnel to prevent the animals from passing through the system.

The Invelox wind system has become something of a godsend for coastal, island and tropical places such as Hawai’i — which has pledged to transition 100% of its power generation to renewable sources by 2045 — and The Nature Conservancy research center located on the Pacific island of Palmyra. The conservancy center is located in a wildlife refuge, where thousands of birds come to nest. The center installed SheerWind’s Involex system on the island in the summer of 2015.

Watch a video of the Invelox system here.

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