Bladeless wind turbine wobbles to generate power

David Yanez, co-founder of the start-up Vortex Bladeless, is the inventor of a bladeless wind turbine, a slender vertical and simple piece of machinery that, instead of rotating or spinning, oscillates to collect the kinetic energy of the wind. It transforms that energy into electricity at approximately 30 per cent of the cost of conventional wind energy sources, he said.

“What we want is to try to find a niche that is not properly covered by conventional wind power,” Yanez said standing next to an oscillating 2.75 metre bladeless prototype set up in the countryside near Avila, Spain, where Vortex Bladeless has its base.

“The niche, that in principle, we see could be small wind industry, because the absence of maintenance, no need for oil and the low cost could be the elements that make this idea a useful tool for distributing energy, producing energy close to the point of consumption.”  

Watching a video of the 1940s Tacoma Narrows bridge collapse in the United States, Yanez, as an engineering student in 2012, got his inspiration for his invention as he watched the bridge oscillate in a storm.

In 2015 approximately, Vortex Bladeless was born and since then Yanez and his team have been working to develop the bladeless turbine with the hope of commercializing it.

Their original design has since evolved and currently they are working with prototypes that measure 2.75 metres and 85 centimetres which are aimed at being used in urban centres.

Vortex Bladeless co-founder David Yanez stands next to an oscillating 2.75 metre bladeless prototype set up in the countryside near Avila, Spain, where the company is based. (Reuters)

Vortex Bladeless wind turbines can be used on their own or in conjunction with solar panels.

During the day and when there is not very much wind, solar panels could provide energy. And in the evening, when the wind picks up, the bladeless wind turbine could step in providing energy around the clock, Yanez explained.

“For all those urban centres that do not have as much solar resource as Spain and the whole Mediterranean area, the urban environment seems to fit perfectly with this idea,” Yanez said.

“The fact it does not produce noise, the visual impact is subjective, but there are those who consider that it could have some attraction, better than those of the conventional wind industry, and above all this, the fact that it has no maintenance costs — or hardly any — is something very valuable,” he added.

CEO Rodrigo Ruperz added that the company’s current prototypes can also be useful in isolated environments.

“They are suitable for urban environments and of course in isolated environments, traffic signals, the multitude of sensors that use electricity, we think that there is a niche market that so far has not been developed,” he said speaking at the University of Salamanca where a small 85 cm prototype is installed on the roof of one of the buildings.

In the long-term, Yanez’s hope is that his invention can be used in the off-shore wind industry.

“This technology could have an advantage because of the fact it does not have elements that can be rusted by humidity or salt, and maybe this space could be the most suitable for it,” he said.

Currently Vortex Bladeless has five patent families internationally and Yanez estimates that with a suitable investor they could commercialize their prototypes in 12 to 18 months.

Previous bladeless wind turbine designs have included the Electrostatic Wind Energy Converter from Delft University in the Netherlands and the Aeoleaf “wind tree” from the French firm New World Wind.