(This blog entry has been updated)
Lucien Gambarota demonstrates how the micro wind turbine can generate electricity (Image Credit: VOA)
The Voice of America reports that a collaboration between engineers at the University of Hong Kong and a renewable energy company has produced a small, lightweight, scalable wind turbine that can generate power even at low wind speeds.
"We never stop this machine and they never stop because there is always one meter per second wind - 365 days, 24 hours a day, they keep working," said [principal inventor Lucien] Gambarota. "They deliver different levels of energy because the wind changes but these turbines they keep moving, they keep spinning."
Gambarota says the small turbines are ideal for crowded cities such as Hong Kong because they can be installed on rooftops and balconies.
Their design is simple: plastic gearwheels, each about 25 centimeters in diameter, are linked to one another and turn, moved by the wind. Groups of gearwheels can be arranged in an array of shapes and sizes, ranging from about two up to thousands of square meters, depending on how much energy is needed and how much space is available. The energy generated by the turbines is stored in a battery, which then powers electrical appliances.
It will be interesting to see how economical these turbines are in application. At $25 for a set of 20 gearwheels 25 cm in diameter, it would cost $20 for a square meter grid of them. Gambarota claims:
Let's say if you have good conditions, five, six meters [of wind] per second, if you are a family with one kid you need most probably three, four square meters of that then you can most probably cover at least 60, 70 percent of your [energy] needs.
At the current price, four square meters would cost $100.
I'd like to see more details on the amount of electricity actually produced by the gearwheels and whether they can be fed back into the electrical grid via an intertie at the power meter.
In any case, it's worth looking at more closely.
Update: okay, so I'm an idiot. When I wrote this, I somehow managed to calculate that it would cost $600 for a square metre of gearwheels. Thanks to commenter "anon" for setting me straight. -Ed.
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