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Business, Energy, Entrepreneurs, Smart Products, STEM

Proposed New Wind Turbines Mimic the Shape of a Bird

Earlier this year, Bloomberg reported that while wind’s role in the capacity market has been limited, it has been playing a bigger one in the spot market. Its capacity on the grid jumped to 7,655 megawatts last year and has more than doubled in the past seven years, based on data from PJM Interconnection LLC, a Valley Forge, Pennsylvania-based grid operator. [Ref 1] That’s good news for U.S. electricity suppliers and their customers.

wind-turbine_schematic-diagram

Wind turbine schematic design

New rules requiring power producers to ensure that their supplies are available year round are giving some utilities an incentive to use wind as a back-up source. Wind has often been overlooked as a resource during peak summer demand because it fares best in winter.  Wind, however, could prove an attractive partner for summer resources such as solar and demand response — where customers cut consumption and sell back power onto the grid.

There’s some additional good news for wind energy. A North African company in Tunisia, TYER Wind, announced earlier this year that it has created a game-changing wind turbine technology based on the flapping of hummingbird wings. Assuming that there is no magic in their proposed application, this posts will make a connection between wind energy, turbines, hummingbirds, and power generation.

As a starting point, let’s revisit wind energy. In Wind Is A Form of Solar Energy, we discovered that like electricity or solar energy, mechanical power is needed to convert the wind power to electricity. The tool that can make that happen is a wind turbine. Wind turbines, like aircraft propeller blades, turn in the moving air and power an electric generator that supplies an electric current. Like steam turbines or other power generating equipment, the electricity that is generated can be used for many things including powering homes and businesses.

If you read further, you’ll also discover that a wind turbine works like a fan in reverse. A fan uses electricity to make wind or air currents. Wind turbines use wind to make electricity. Similar to water and steam turbines, the wind turns the blades that spin a shaft. The shaft connects to a generator to make electricity.

Enter the hummingbirds. What should I/we know about hummingbirds that would be advantageous for this design? For starters, hummingbirds are the tiniest birds on the planet. The Bee Hummingbird of Cuba is 2.24 inches long or 5.7 cm, and nearly half of

Hummingbird, Ruby-throated

Ruby Throat Hummingbird

that length is in beak and tail! But not all hummers are tiny. The Giant Hummingbird, which lives in the Andes Mountains from Ecuador to Chile, is 8 inches long—as big as a starling! [Ref 2] There are about 320 hummingbird species.

Even more interesting, they’re the only birds that can fly backward as well as forward. When hovering, hummers can beat their wings from 22 to 72 times per sec. Hummers can fly steadily at about 29 mph without the help of wind.

Now, enter TYER Wind. TYER Wind is described as an innovative startup operating in the field of wind energy R&D and is based in Tunisia. According to the company’s website, www.tyerwind.com, the project is aiming at developing a revolutionary new wind converter based on a deep and different observation of nature. The project is a private initiative that is not supported by any public research institutes or government-related entities. It is financially supported by two prominent angel investors (from Pakistan and Algeria).

Tyer-Wind-Converter

TYER vertical axis wind converter

Instead of the traditional wind turbine that we are familiar with in the U.S., a vertical shaft and a rotor blade (see figure above), TYER Winds turbine uses biomimicry principles to replicate the mechanical action of hummingbird wings. The design is fundamentally different from standard rotor-based wind turbines because instead of converting linear motion – wind blowing across the land – into a circular motion, it converts it into a figure-eight pattern. Not only is that shape the same as the one hummingbird wings make while the birds hover, but it also generates energy on both the upstroke and the downstroke.

According to TYER Winds president and co-founder, Anis Aouini, “This is the first time that the motion of the hummingbird wings was mimicked mechanically in a very efficient way. This opens new horizons regarding the way electricity could be produced in the future. Major U.S. research centers have extensively worked on the hummingbird’s aerodynamic behavior and confirmed that it is more efficient than bladed rotors.”

TYER Wind hasn’t released any hard numbers on the electrical output of the device, relative to conventional wind turbines, but Aouini said the system is still in the very early stages of testing. The system is designed to be efficient in both small consumer systems and large industrial wind farms.

“Given the uniqueness of its design, TYER Wind technology is perfectly scalable and could be adapted to various uses and areas,” Aouini said.

With his unique Bio design, TYER Wind vertical axis converters could be widely adopted across various areas including onshore and offshore installations, and on- and off-grid locations. They could either be installed for an individual use (to power a house) or grouped into a large wind farm.

TYER wind is a game-changer that is likely to have a major impact on the way we produce green energy in the future. To view a copy of the technical data sheet and a kinematics sketch, go to http://www.tyerwind.com/technology/#kinematics. [Ref 3]

References:

  1. Wind Power Gets a Leg-Up in Biggest U.S. Electricity Market, by Naureen S. Malik for Bloomberg, April 27, 2017, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-04-27/wind-power-gets-a-leg-up-in-biggest-u-s-electricity-market
  2. Fun Facts about Hummingbirds!, Source: The Annenberg Learner, https://learner.org/jnorth/tm/humm/funfacts.html (last viewed on 07.29.2017)
  3. TYER Wind website: www.tyerwind.com
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About Vi Brown

Vi is principal and CEO of Prophecy Consulting Group, LLC, an Arizona firm that provides business and engineering services to private and public clients. Prior to establishing her consulting practice in 2001, Vi worked with Motorola, Maricopa County Government, Pacific Gas & Electric, CH2M Hill, and Procter & Gamble. As an adjunct faculty member, Vi teaches undergraduate calculus classes and graduate level environmental courses. She is also a professional speaker.

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