The Windbelt: A New Non-Turbine-Based Wind Energy Generator

The Windbelt: A New Non-Turbine-Based Wind Energy Generator

Earlier this week I came across a rather interesting new technology from Humdinger Wind Energy, LLC. Based in Honolulu, this company claims that “from enabling smart buildings to reducing the cost of wind energy”, they are “researching & developing the world’s first non-turbine harvesting technology, the Windbelt™ generator”.  Wind power without a wind turbine?  Definitely worth a second look.

According to the Humdinger Web site, “[i]nstead of using conventional geared, roating airfoils to pull energy from the wind, the Windbelt™ relies on an aerodynamic phenomenon known as on an aerodynamic phenomenon known as aeroelastic flutter (‘flutter’). While the phenomenon is a well-known destructive force (e.g., a cause of bridge failure), researchers at Humdinger have discovered that it can also be a useful and powerful mechanism for catching the wind at scales and costs beyond the reach of turbines”.

humdinger

Huh!  “Sounds pretty bizarre”, I thought to myself, but with a niggling feeling that I actually knew what they were talking about, without understanding why… until I read the very next paragraph on the Web page, where the source of that feeling was resolved. “To picture how this works”, says Humdinger, “think of how you held a blade of grass between your fingers as a kid and made it whistle [Aha!], — or how the strapping on a truck can be seen moving in the wind. That is roughly how the Windbelt can pull energy from the wind – then, it’s a second step to turn that energy of the moving membrane into electricity, which is done by actuating new types of linear generators.”

Clever!

The fluttering of the membrane moves a coil back and forth over a permanent magnet, or vice-versa. The changing field leads to the generation of electricity in the coil, and thus a generator is born.

Humdinger claims that by grouping these fluttering mebranes into modules, cells and panels, they can be used to generate anything from sub-1W to multiple MW of power.  An array of 10 x 1 m x 1m x 5 cm panels could produce 1 kW of power.   On larger installations, Humdinger claims that the “Windcell Panels have an initial projected production cost of $1 per rated watt, “or US$0.03-US$0.05 per kWh (at 6m/s average windspeeds) […] – four times cheaper than comparable solar systems and far less expensive than similarly-sized turbine-based wind systems”.

A quick search of the US Patent and Trademark Office shows that a patent on the above technology was issued to Humdinger only last month.  Images from the patent show a variety of suggested coil – magnet configurations, a couple of which are shown below:

patent1

patent2According to a BusinessWeek article on this technology from late last year, the device’s inventor, Shawn Frayne, came up with the idea while trying to help fishermen in rural Haiti generate cheap, robust electricity. “Unconnected to the local power grid,” said the article, “they relied heavily on dirty kerosene lamps, which are not only costly to operate but also unhealthy and dangerous. [Shawn] decided to devise an alternative—a small, safe, and renewable power generator that could be used to power LED lights and small household electronics, such as radios.”

Mr. Frayne has subsequently worked with communities in rural Guatemala to develop production-ready versions of the Windbelt.  As the concept enters the mainstream of wind generation technology, it will be interesting to see what impact it has on the behemoth that is the wind turbine industry.  At the cheaper rates of electricity generation claimed by Humdinger, and in easy-to-use form factors, one has to think that the technology just might stand a chance of succeeding.

Good luck to them!

, , , ,

This post was written by:

- who has written 67 posts on Terra Magnetica.

Gareth is a Founding Principal at Technology Metals Research, LLC. He has expertise in a variety of magnetic materials, devices and applications, and their associated trends and challenges, particularly for renewable energy production. For more information check out his biography page. Don't forget to check out Terra Magnetica at Twitter too.

Contact the author

5 Responses to “The Windbelt: A New Non-Turbine-Based Wind Energy Generator”

  1. Uncle B Says:

    A huge frame filled with these things, and all wired together to get some current, put it up high as possible, or perhaps by changing band tensions, in summer breezes like leaves that sway large trees! I see it all now! Enough power to keep a LED light on long enough for me to read a good book, a super small, very economical computer running on the net -All Night ! Great! or even a large scale job, turning ocean breezes into stored power for my electric car! Good news! Love this stuff! After the great crash, see the dark clouds on the horizon? We will all be frugally your customers, no longer arrogant gasoline hogs, and very thin for lack of meat in our diets. See you there, on the other side of America’s great sorrow, next, on streets and in villages near you!

  2. John Says:

    Sounds wonderful. Relatively simple, initially inexpensive and could be made to work in areas of low wind. I do,however, have a few questions before jumping on the bandwagon. With the constant flexing, how about wear on the bands? How much noise would be generated? Are there any estimates on the time between expected repairs? Does assembly require exotic mechanisms or materials?

    The process does appear interesting enough for me to do some tinkering on my own. Without violating the current patent of course. I am slightly more than curious to see what makes this device tick.

  3. Daryl Says:

    Not impressive when you look at the power output. Even worse when you consider the noise, think of the grass whistle you made as a kid. Its a great little toy or relief aid for 3rd world types but as a power source cant compare to wind turbines or solar. What makes this thing great is its small scale and simple construction, turbines dont scale down very well this device can fill that void. As for giant arrays of these things… if your going make a large tower and build large generators, build a turbine.

  4. Lee Says:

    IT’s all hype, the wind belts barely produce enough power to light up 1 small led. People say why not create an array of windbelts but by the time you’ve got to that stage you might aswell have just brought a wind turbine.

    Can you imagine having to maintain 100 wind belts?