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O-Wind Turbine

A truly-omnidirectional, single-axis wind turbine especially suitable for apartment buildings facing chaotic winds in urban environments. (pat.pend.)

  • Cardboard prototype being tested in a real scenario at the Morecambe Bay, UK

  • This video summarizes the entry to the contest, including its origin, current state, market and future plans.

    This video summarizes the entry to the contest, including its origin, current state, market and future plans.

  • Previous development as a wind rover, being tested at the Atacama Desert, Chile

  • 3D model of the O-Wind Turbine

  • 3D modelling evolution from a wind rover to an omnidirectional wind turbine

  • 3D printing a new prototype to be tested in a wind tunnel for performance measurement

What it does

O-Wind Takes advantage of horizontal AND vertical winds without requiring steering. Apartment dwellers could efficiently/effectively/sustainably generate electricity and independently make use of feed-in tariffs in nearly 80 countries.


Your inspiration

Years ago, the NASA was exploring the option of wind-driven balls to explore Mars, but winds multi-directionality was a big challenge. Our concept was originally developed as a way of taking advantage of cross-winds to make an exploratory vehicle travelling in a pre-set direction. A prototype proven in the Atacama Desert showed that it works, travelling more than 7km in straight line. The concept was recently redeveloped as a wind turbine by taking advantage of its capacity of making use of omnidirectional winds to achieve rotation over a single axis. This capacity allows it to face changing winds in urban environments.


How it works

The turbine is of a spherical shape with a single axis of rotation going through it. Its dimensions and shape mean that it is very suitable for small-scale energy production by individual apartment dwellers e.g. by being fixed outside balconies. The turbine makes use of Bernoulli’s principle for its mechanical motion. The structure is lined up with vents which have large entrances and smaller exits for air. In the presence of wind, there is a pressure difference between the two terminals causing the turbine to move. The vents are placed all across the sphere making it receptive to wind from all directions in both the vertical and horizontal planes. The turbine will rotate in the same sense about a fixed axis regardless of wind direction. This turbine rotation is used to power a generator that can produce electricity, which can be fed into the national grid, hence providing financial incentive to users and improving the region’s sustainable energy production.


Design process

The initial technology was developed from the study of alveolar kites. Single square fabric kites in different proportions allowed the analysis of pushing forces when exposed to wind. These kites were then re-shaped, turned into faces of different polygons and tested in various configurations until the complete body would take winds coming from left and right to generate rotational movement, pushing the body forward. This body was combined with an external frame that translated the rotation into straight displacement. A 2mt prototype travelled over 7km. The later development added a second layer of channels with entrances from every direction to make it omnidirectional. This was made firstly by modifying the previous 3d model in different ways to achieve the same wind-redirection capacity from all faces. The best alternative was prototyped in cardboard and proved in several locations to try its new omnidirectional capability. The 25cm cardboard prototype was proved with hairdryers and fans to easily test its reaction to changing winds. The successful test demonstrates, in a very simple way, its capacity to keep rotating in the same direction even under rapidly changing winds. Further prototypes are being 3d printed for performance test in wind tunnels at the Lancaster University.


How it is different

The O-Wind, due to its unique design, makes use of wind approaching from all directions in 3 dimensions including wind in the vertical direction. This is not the case for other wind turbines in the market, with VAWT’s being multidirectional only in the horizontal plane. The simplistic design and use of a single axis of rotation mean that no steering is involved, hence requiring less maintenance than traditional wind turbines. Finally, the size and shape of the turbine mean that it can be placed in different kinds of environment compared to traditional turbines which require more space. The O-Wind is well suited to urban environments hence widening the range of suitable locations for the harnessing of sustainable energy.


Future plans

Further prototyping and test will be made in order to optimize its performance. Specialized facilities have been made available at Lancaster University for this purpose. Beyond this solution, the technology can be used for developing on-grid and off-grid alternatives for the urban market as well as for motor homes, boats and other stand-alone applications at different sizes. One particularly interesting possible application is wave energy generation, as under the waves it is also a chaotic situation with water flowing in every direction. In order for this technology to be used in that scenario, a greater R&D effort should be made.


Awards

This is the first contest this technology is presented to, but the team leader has been awarded eight relevant awards, including the Santander Award (Chile 2009), the Iberoamerican Innovation and Entrepreneurship Award (Argentina 2010) and the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge (USA 2015/16).


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