New Wind Turbine for Urban Environments

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The "Smart Energy Spire," as it's called, looks like a giant corkscrew, with two small wind turbines nestled on each side of its grooves. In principle, it's spiral shape is expected to increase the velocity of low speed winds that encounter the grooves, creating a wind tunnel effect. Dr. Majid Rashidi, a Mechanical Engineering Professor at Cleveland State University who helped to engineer the design, says this wind tunnel effect works whether the spire is a stand alone tower or mounted on top of a building.

Majid Rashidi: So when the wind stream hits it it's going to go around the structure. And as it goes around it speeds up and we are exposing the wind turbines to a higher wind velocity than what Mother Nature gives us.

Rashidi says CSU has funding to build a prototype of the "Smart Energy Spire" on top of one of its academic buildings. The plan is to construct a two groove spire what will test the accuracy of computer models. Rashidi says even on this small scale, the spire should generate between 100 and 500 kilowatts of power, depending on the wind.

Majid Rashidi: With this two turn system we can supply four houses full blast with all the appliances and electrical systems on.

The Akron Company Green Energy Technologies approached CSU to assist with the spire design, and hopes to mass market it in the future.

Dr. Rashidi presented the design plans to a room full of staff members at the Cleveland Natural History Museum on Wednesday, where concerns were raised about the spire's potential to harm flying wildlife. Past wind turbine projects, which didn't undergo proper environmental impact studies have been known to kill large numbers of animals that flew too close. David Krista, coordinator of biodiversity at the museum, says the small 20 foot diameter of the Spire's turbine blades means they could spin very fast, up to 200 rotations per minute.

David Krista: While the big turbines, like were talking about on Lake Erie, those turbines have a 300 foot diameter they don't spin at fast maybe 20 rpms. He quoted 200 rpms. So the concern is how fast those guys are spinning. Those essentially could be blenders. So I'm concerned about the energy efficiency but I'm also concerned about the wild life impacts.

Dr. Rashidi says the spire prototype will go through studies to satisfy public concerns over wildlife impacts and sight selection. Contracts with fabricators and parts suppliers will also need to be negotiated making it a year or more before the first Wind spire can be built. Lisa Ann Pinkerton, 90.3.

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