Wind Turbines Coming to a City Near You

You don't normally find a wind turbine in the middle of a large metropolitan area, but that will soon change if Farzad Safaei has his way. Safaei, a professor at Australia's University of Wollongong and director of the university's ICT Research Institute, has developed a wind turbine that can be positioned between, or atop, skyscrapers and large buildings to harvest wind areas in urban areas.

Safaei began working on the technology, called PowerWINDows, in 2007, with a goal to "develop a wind power turbine that is modular and can scale to any size by attaching modules together -- that is, mass producing modules and them assembling the larger turbine from these onsite," he told Design News in an email.

Each module of PowerWINDows looks like just like its name implies -- an open window, while the turbine's blades resemble "a sparse Venetian blind," Safaei told us. "The wind will cause the blades to move up and down, similar to a garage door rolling."

A video demonstration of the technology viewed by Design News but not meant for publication (per Safaei's request) shows the PowerWINDows blades moving up and down not only like a garage door, but also like a Ferris wheel that is quickly rotating. Instead of chairs, however, the technology has blades like blind slats that move to generate energy.

Safaei said the technology is safe for urban areas because it does not have the kind of large, rotating blades of most typically deployed horizontal turbines. However, "it is a machine with moving parts, so the usual precautions apply."

Safaei said it's too soon to predict when PowerWINDows might be ready for commercial use. However, the university recently signed a two-year deal with Birdon, a large Australian engineering company, to build a commercial prototype of the technology to enable more extensive testing and evaluation that could lead to a viable commercial product.

Indeed, wind energy is increasingly being seen as an even more formidable source of energy than the sun for future energy needs. A recent study by Stanford University's School of Engineering and the University of Delaware claimed that there's enough wind over land and at sea combined to produce at least half the world's power demand by 2030.

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