Wind turbines don't seem to have changed very much in the last few decades. Yes, they've gotten a heck of a lot bigger. And I will tell you that the innards of the devices have been the subject of industrial espionage and patent wars.
But they look pretty much the same.
Which might lead you to believe that there's not much we can do to make wind turbines much more efficient than they already are. But "FloDesign" seems to think that is not the case. For the first time since I started EcoGeek, I'm seeing horizontal axis wind turbine that doesn't look like a great-big propeller.
What it does look like is a great big jet engine. And maybe that makes sense, as jet engines are more efficient than props in driving airplanes. I'm afraid I can't explain the technology, because fluid dynamics are way over my head, but the designers of the turbine are making some fascinating claims.
There is a theoretical limit to how efficient wind turbines can be. But the designers of this turbine say that it removes whatever limitation makes that constant apply, and thus these turbines can be far more efficient and cost-effective:
A stator-rotor turbine cascade design is used to more effectively extract energy from the flow. For a given wind velocity, a MEWT having a maximum diameter 50% smaller than an existing 3-Bladed HAWT can potentially generate over 50% more power, and can potentially cost 25-35% less than the same HAWT.
So we're talking about a 25% decrease in cost with 50% more power generated. If I'm doing the numbers right, that makes wind significantly cheaper than coal throughout the entire Midwest United States. But this is still at the early stages of research and development. There needs to be a lot of work done before we'll know anything for sure. But I will say that FloDesign is officially in my RSS reader...I can't wait to hear what news they've got next.
Jamie Hyneman, the famously beret-clad Mythbuster, recently just wrote a fantastic list of lame-ass (and coincidentally environmentally disastrous) things about today's consumer electronics industry. It's great to see him coming to agree with EcoGeek from a completely different angle.
He bemoans the fact that there are no standard battery sizes for new lithium-ions, and you can never find the battery you want for the device you need powered. Jamie points out that no one would buy Chevys if you needed a Chevrolet battery to start the thing.
Useless software, preloaded onto computers, wastes space and creates a constant drain on your processor, and thus your power grid. "Obnoxious" electronics in cars only make the things go obsolete and break more quickly. And, of course, everything in a car is designed to be completely impossible for an amateur (or even a mythbuster) to fix these days.
It's a fascinating and entertaining look at how the gadgets of our lives only make us more frustrated and less capable people. But there are also a few good examples people trying to fix these problems. The problem of 10,000 different chargers for 10,000 different phones, for example, is nearly ready to be tackled:
Miraculously, the industry appears to be working on a solution to this problem. The Open Mobile Terminal Platform (omtp.org) is supported by a number of manufacturers that would like to see the micro USB become the standard connector. It's too early to know if they will succeed; let's hope they do.
We at EcoGeek are happy to announce that the folks at the Wall Street Journal have joined the environmental blogosphere with the eco-business blog "Environmental Capital." Previously, the WSJ had a similar blog covering only energy issues, which I was a pretty big fan of, but now they're relaunching, bigger and better.
EcoGeek and the WSJ have had, and will continue to have, our differences (for example, I'm not so sure about the "huge disagreement [as everyone knows] in the global warming debate" that they mention.) Actually, I think that's complete B.S. It's been about five years, in my opinion, since there was any "debate" at all. What we have now is pandering to people who only care about next quarter's numbers.
We're happy, at EcoGeek, to have moved on from any "debate" and toward solutions, which, in the end, are (quite literally) inifinitely more productive than debate.
But in any case, I welcome Environmental Capital to this space. Not as another member of the debate, but as a resource offering different kinds of solutions to a different, and very important, demographic.
It's so close we can almost taste all of those solar-powered, ultra-efficient, RoHS-compliant goodies. The Greener Gadgets Conference is coming up on February 1st, and (though I won't be able to be there) Shea Gunther will be covering the conference for EcoGeek.
Other good news? Why, yes there is. We've just been informed that EcoGeek readers are eligable for a 25% discount on registration fees. Simply go to the registration page and use the coupon code, ECOGEEK25Discount, and save some cash.
We also completely neglected to tell everyone about the $2,500 grand prize Green Design competition. From Core77:
Core77 is inviting designers to explore the concept of "Greener Gadgets." Designs should seek to minimize the environmental impact of consumer electronic devices at any stage in the product lifecycle. Areas of sustainability to consider include:
2. Materials / Lifecycle / Recycling
3. Social & educational development
Participants are encouraged to consider their designs as part of the entire product ecosystem, and should think as holistically as possible. Designers may choose to focus their entries on a particular area of human enterprise (learning, playing, communicating, etc.), or a particular context (work, home, school, etc.), a particular material, or a specific device. Entries may also seek to create new paradigms for products and services.
We look forward to hearing reports from the conference. If there were any way I could make it myself, you know I'd be there. But have a great time, and change