Passive structure design of "Wind Energizer" by Leviathan Energy reportedly increases wind turbine efficiency 30% in field tests.
Technological advancements in wind energy efficiency have generally come incrementally and usually made via a process of increasingly large wind turbine blades. Put simply, the model has been: longer blades = more output per turbine.
But that pattern of incremental improvements may be a thing of the past if Leviathan Energy has anything to say about it. Leviathan Energy has completed initial testing on their Wind Energizer unit and is reporting gains in wind turbine output in the ballpark of 30% — and as much as 150% at lower wind speeds.
The principle theory at work is that by placing passive objects around a wind farm it will change the circulation around a large wind turbine. The advancement is not in the turbine itself, but rather in the area around it, as such, units can be adapted to any wind turbine from any manufacturer.
"This is a disruptive technology," Leviathan Energy CEO Dr. Daniel Farb told me via telephone from Israel last week. "We are changing the environment of the wind turbine; this is a very different approach."
Farb is a bit of a modern day renaissance man. Trained as a medical doctor—an opthalmologist—he also has a business degree, and perhaps most importantly, a real determination to make innovations in renewable energy. "Sometimes people are able to develop ideas that other people that may have missed by taking a fresh perspective on something," said Farb, whose team at Leviathan Energy also makes a vertical axis wind turbine and small hydroelectric turbines.
The Wind Energizer is a donut-shaped structure made from steel and plastic, but the exact dimensions of it depend on site-specific data, like the tower height, length of the blades, prevailing wind direction and intensity, etc. As determined in the customized modeling process, Farb said that the structure may not even make an entire circle (as is depicted in the images).
"We're shaping the flow so that the highest velocities hit the blades. By increasing velocity at exactly the right point we've been able to make serious advances in the cost-effectiveness of renewable energy," Dr. Farb explained.
In the initial phase of testing, Leviathan measured an average of 20-40% more output with the turbines using the Wind Energizer, as compared to the control units. At lower wind speeds (0-6 meters per second) the turbines with the Wind Energizer had gains as high as 150%.
Leviathan's early testing has been conducted on a relatively small scale, using commercially-available small turbines with 3-meter blades.
Farb told me that Leviathan is currently exploring opportunities for third-party testing and certification on a commercial scale wind farm.
Leviathan estimates that the period of return on investment for the wind energizer to be about four to five years and that wind farm operators would likely see decreased maintenance costs and longer life span because the Wind Energizer balances the velocity load and shearing forces on the turbine.
"If this were implemented worldwide there is no quicker way to grow our renewable energy capacity," Dr. Farb said.
And if the Wind Energizer performs as well on a large scale as it did on a smaller scale, he may be right.
If you want to learn more about the Wind Energizer, or any of Leviathan Energy's other products, they will be at the American Wind Energy Association's WINDPOWER 2009 conference and expo in Chicago next week.