Bill Gates backs cheaper, less intrusive wind power prototype

The Airloom features an oval track-based design
The Airloom features an oval track-based design

Wyoming-based Airloom Energy, backed by Bill Gates’s Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund, has developed an innovative oval-shaped track wind generation prototype it says is a third of the price of building a traditional wind farm.

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According to New Atlas, the company’s 2.5MW Airloom setup comprises a number of 25m poles to suspend an oval-shaped track, into which a series of 10m wing blades are set, joined by a cable.

These blades generate wind energy as they travel around the track, which is oriented such that the long sides are angled for maximum wind capture and the short ends are spaces where the blades can change direction as the rest of the blades haul them around.

Power takeoffs harvest linear motion from the cable to run generators. Where a regular wind turbine gets maximum torque from the tips of its blades and very little from the bits closest to the hub, the full length of each of the Airloom system’s blades will contribute to hauling the whole loop around, with effectively a short break twice per revolution as they turn around at the ends.

Airloom’s smaller parts can be built in relatively small factories from non-specialist materials, and every part of installing and maintaining them becomes easier, cheaper and safer. It also promises to be far less visually intrusive than tall wind turbine towers.

The company says a wing track will cost somewhere in the vicinity of US$225,000.

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With prototypes already up and running, Airloom says it plans to use its seed funding to prove the technology with a 50kW test device, after which it will move to commercialisation.

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