One’s first impression is – it won’t work.  But some innovative and enterprising folks have driven the wind through a funnel idea to what seems to be a successful field trial.

SheerWind Invelox How it Works. Click image for the largest view.

SheerWind Invelox How it Works. Click image for the largest view.

Brian Wang’s NextBigFuture site spotted the small firm’s press release and ran a post.  That in itself is an acknowledgment the technology is interesting.

Simply put SheerWind’s Invelox wind energy system captures the breeze from an above ground portal and funnels the wind through a tapering passageway that “naturally” accelerates its flow.  Near the end a venturi effect is introduced and the now fast moving breeze passes through a conventional turbine.

Lets say it works, and it probably does, the user is looking at a much different installation and performance scenario.

Up front the cost of producing electricity is less than 1 cent per KWH, making it more than competitive with natural gas and hydroelectric powered generation.  At this cost level the system wouldn’t need government subsidies to be profitable.  The basic unit wouldn’t have moving parts, the generating set is near the ground suggesting a 50% reduction of operating costs compared current wind turbine technology/

An Invelox funnels wind energy to ground-based generators. Instead of snatching bits of energy from the wind as it passes through the blades of a rotor, wind is captured with a funnel and directed through a tapering passageway that naturally accelerates its flow. This stream of kinetic energy then drives a generator that is installed safely and economically at ground level.

The premise is to bring the airflow from the top of the tower to ground level and allow for greater power generation with much smaller turbine blades. It could also allow for networking, allowing multiple towers to direct energy to the same generator. The unit is about 50% shorter than traditional wind towers and uses a ground-based turbine with blades that are 84% smaller. Fewer generators are required in a network, so equipment and maintenance costs would be lower. Most importantly, energy output is greater.

So far the technology has been reviewed and validated by the company’s technical advisory board and a team from City University of New York. Prototypes were tested under controlled laboratory conditions, and test results were used to build and validate full-scale computational fluid dynamic (CFD) models.

The first small-scale unit was installed in a field near SheerWind’s facility in Chaska, Minnesota. The unit incorporates the instruments for full speed and power data collection. Preliminary speed data have validated CFD model predictions.

A larger-scale (Commercial-grade) field demo unit has also been completed. Data collection and testing has exceeded expectations.

Perhaps the SheerWind’s Invelox best use is to uprate wind speeds.  Chaska, Minnesota is generally considered a class 1 or 2 wind area, which is verified by free stream wind.  The wind speeds recorded inside the venturi section of the Invelox show that winds are converted to class 3.

The firm’s web site has additional information.  With designs for both single wind direction and all direction winds plus the advantages of more operating time should see the firm gain some market traction.

We’ll assume here that it works as described, and wish the folks there the best.  They’re going to need it.  It’s a large imposing structure running a rather small generator.  What it would cost is still an unknown.  But if it does perform to expectations there isn’t anything like it for competition.


6 Comments so far

  1. Matt Musson on May 15, 2013 7:11 AM

    My first impression is that this is how Nikola Tesla would build a windmill.

  2. Al Fin on May 15, 2013 10:20 AM

    An interesting idea, along the lines of something I dreamed up about 30 years ago when I was still in my pro-wind phase.

    If one were to take the research data and run the numbers, it would be apparent that such a structure might be applicable for charging emergency backup electrical storage devices on a small to intermediate scale.

    The unreliable intermittency of wind makes it unsuitable for large scale industrial grids, and this design does nothing to mitigate that reality.

    Germany is on the verge of losing its economic edge, thanks to its flight from nuclear and a increasingly devastating overreliance on wind and solar.

  3. Benjamin Cole on May 15, 2013 9:33 PM

    Here is my idea: Okay, you build a water tower very high like in 1000 feet. At the bottom are electrodes that generate hydrogen. The hydrogen passes up through the water tower turning turbines. When the hydrogen gets to the top it is collected and burned to produce electricity too.

    This should generate more electricity than it consumers.

    Energy problem solved. Next problem.

  4. Jagdish on May 16, 2013 3:50 AM

    I feel that the idea should be used only to store compressed air. The compressed air could be stored underground or underwater.
    Compressed air is an economical energy source for climate control or for mechanical power. While it is possible to convert it to electricity, the electronics are best served by solar energy.

  5. Matt Musson on May 16, 2013 7:28 AM

    Al Fin!

    I was afraid you had dropped off the earth. Suddenly your blog stopped and I was asking the guys at NBF if they knew what happened.

    Glad you are back.


  6. Mike Barnard on August 1, 2014 4:05 AM

    The Invelox is a misleadingly represented wind generation device that likely gets 18 times worse generation, not six times better. Orders of magnitude of misrepresentation. Full analysis here:

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