Underground Wind Turbines? You Betcha

A Chaska, MN-based renewable energy development company, SheerWind, is putting a new twist on wind power by moving the spinning blades on top underground. The new wind turbine technology, called Invelox, promises significant cost, reliability, power and esthetic improvements compared to current turbine technology.

It's in the running for a $100,000 grand prize at the Clean Energy Challenge in Chicago, hosted by an Illionois-based partnership of research institutions, corporations, investors, foundations, trade groups, and government agencies, and rewards the most innovative clean energy companies in the Midwest with cash prizes.

Invelox is definitely innovative. Imagine the typical wind turbine as you drive down the interstate in rural Minnesota or Iowa. Now reduce the height by half, put the turbine blades underground, and replace them with a double-tiered, skyward-facing phonograph horn. This technology, developed by SheerWind founder Daryoush Allaei, harnesses whatever wind is blowing above ground and directs it through small openings below ground, increasing the velocity and therefore the production power of the wind, to turn the turbine blades attached to generators. The process essentially does with air what a dam does with water.

There aren’t any pilot programs or test models of the Invelox technology in action yet. But Sheerwind’s simulations and computer models predict that the technology can produce nearly three times more power than a conventional turbine, with cuts in installation costs, lower operation and maintenance expenses, and a reduced landscape footprint than current wind towers.

But what I think is the most significant feature of Invelox is its apparent ability to generate power at wind speeds as low as 2 mph. If this claim holds up in test models, this technology could make wind power feasible in countless areas where current technology doesn’t work. And it increases the opportunities for utilities to use wind power as a baseload energy source rather than as alternative or peak demand sources.

Although Invelox has not yet ventured from the laboratory of computer models and simulations into the real world, SheerWind’s emerging tech has some power behind it. In addition to being a finalist at the upcoming Clean Energy Challenge, SheerWind was a finalist at the Clean Tech Open in 2011 and received the Sustainability Award for the North Central Region. And one look at its management and advisory teams, which include former Xcel Energy execs, former Chief of Staff for the Army Corps of Engineers, and strong business and academic representation, indicates that the right people are taking this technology seriously.

Technology and business innovations from a Minnesota-based company that can provide clean energy for our state. Everybody wins.

Posted in Economic Development | Related Topics: Energy  Wind Energy  Small Business  Technology 

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