The need for efficient and renewable energy sources is an ever-growing one, and a focus on wind and solar power rests at the center of public and commercial interest for alternative sources. Germany, Japan, and several other nations have been heavily investing in alternative energy; Germany has set a goal for itself to receive 80 percent of its power from renewable sources by the year 2050. The United States has also ramped up solar energy production, this year they are set to generate more solar power than Germany for the first time in 15 years [in this particular quarter of the year]. The mainstream focus seems to be primarily on solar though, but what if advances in wind energy make it more economically and ecologically viable than solar?
Germany remains the world leader in total installed capacity, and its solar power per capita surpasses the United States. They aren’t the only ones looking to solar, Americans have been installing solar panels lately in record numbers, perhaps fueled by the continual price drop; the average photovoltaic-system price ranges $3 per watt. India is also looking to increase their solar productivity, Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission Phase-1 (JNNSM) wants to make India a global leader in the development of solar power.
The JNNSM has effectively reduced the costs of solar energy there to about $0.15 per kWh, this makes India amongst the lowest cost destinations for grid-connected solar Photovoltaic (PV) in the world. Onno Ruhl, World Bank Country Director in India said about the recent progress that “India [had] made impressive strides in developing its abundant solar power potential.” [And that] with more than 300 million people without access to energy and industry, solar power has the potential to help the country address the shortage of power for economic growth.” But solar power isn’t the only alternative, wind power is another viable option which has been used for thousands of years and seems to bring fewer ecological costs with it.
Current windmill designs, although less environmentally damaging than fossil fuels, are criticized because they are noisy, and unsafe because they pose a danger to the animals in the surrounding area that happen to pass by. The windmills are responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of bats, birds, and eagles every single year. Under pressure from the wind-power industry, the Obama administration recently announced that they will allow wind-energy companies to avoid prosecution for killing or injuring up to 30 eagles a year [a federally-protected animal].
Looking to ramp up renewable resource production, US officials recently allocated a $700,000 federal tax credit for clean energy, it will allegedly be used to help to hire 170 new workers to LM Wind Power. LM is the largest manufacturer of wind turbine blades in the world. However, newer wind “turbine” models look more promising.
Saphon Energy has conjured a new blade-less wind turbine device, they operate with a cutting edge Zero Blade technology, the design is largely inspired by the sailboat and is likely to significantly increase the efficiency of current wind power conversion devices. The new Zero Blade wind turbines are said to be 2.3 times more efficient than the average turbine, and cost is expected to be 45% lower. The company is now looking for manufacturing partners to bring the turbine to market. Saphon isn’t the first to engage in exploring the bladeless turbine concept, Nikola Tesla also experimented with similar bladeless technology back in 1913. Delft University of Technolgy researchers Johan Smit and Dhiradi Djairam also developed the Electrostatic Wind Energy Converter [Ewicon], creates electrical energy directly from wind energy. Honesty, it shouldn’t surprise us that systems that don’t depending on large moving parts are more efficient at generating energy.