Typhoon-proof Wind Turbine

While wind energy is rapidly increasing its market share across the world, wind turbines are not able to be constructed everywhere that they might be needed. A perfect example of this is Japan, where a traditional wind turbine would get damaged by typhoons. After the Fukushima disaster, though, one Japanese engineer committed himself to building a turbine specifically for Japan that can operate just fine within hurricane-force winds. (YouTube, embedded below.)

The “typhoon turbine” as it is known works via the Magnus effect, where a spinning object directs air around it faster on one side than on the other. This turbine uses three Magnus effect-driven cylinders with a blade on each one, which allows the turbine to harvest energy no matter how high the wind speeds are. The problem with hurricanes and typhoons isn’t just the wind, but also what the wind blows around. While there is no mention of its impact resistance it certainly looks like it has been built as robustly as possible.

Hopefully this turbine is able to catch on in Japan so they can reduce their reliance on other types of energy. Wind energy has been getting incredibly popular lately, including among hikers who carry a portable wind generator, and even among people with just a few pieces of scrap material.

35 thoughts on “Typhoon-proof Wind Turbine

  1. Commenting about the previous screwdriving thread here instead because it appears to be closed so moving the discussion to here instead as I am not sure exactly where else to put it.

    Just wanted to point out that this isn’t the first time this has been an issue. Back in March, data leaks were already making headlines.

    Maker of ‘Smart’ Vibrators Settles Data Collection Lawsuit for $3.75 Million


    “The We-Vibe 4 Plus is a vibrator with a computer inside it – but hackers say it also phones home, telling its makers when it’s being used.

    The Internet of Things That Can Be Hacked grows daily. Lightbulbs, trucks, and fridges all have computers inside them now, and all have been hacked by someone. But at least you don’t put those inside your body.

    Two years ago, someone had the good idea to put a bluetooth connection inside a vibrator, and the We-Vibe 4 Plus was born. The vibrator can connect with a smartphone app that its makers say “allows couples to keep their flame ignited – together or apart”: that is, it can be controlled remotely, while, say, making a video call.

    But at the Def Con hacking conference in Las Vegas, two independent hackers from New Zealand, who go by the handles goldfisk and follower, revealed that the way the vibrator speaks with its controlling app isn’t really secure at all – making it possible to remotely seize control of the vibrator and activate it at will.”

  2. “Hopefully this turbine is able to catch on in Japan so they can reduce their reliance on other types of energy.”

    Kind of a funny thing to wish for, hurricane and typhoon winds.

      1. I did some back of envelope figuring on one of these the other year, and it was basically going to need 30mph winds most of the time to be worth it, otherwise you were spinning it for nothing, or had to drive the magnus rotors to insane speed to get anything. That was for suburban backyard scale though, think the numbers look better as they get bigger.

        1. It’d be extra cost, but could you split the cylinder into three, then set it so it at low speeds it was split into vanes to cup and catch the wind, then transition to a cylinder for higher speeds?

    1. The grid can’t store it though. If the infrastructure is compromised all the energy will go to waste. Maybe some storage can be figured out but they’re not common now.

      1. True…

        There’s probably a trap there where net hydrocarbon emissions go up for a given imbalance of politically mandated solar and wind that the engineering calculations don’t support. Like northern countries that might have light breeze, severe cold and heavy snow combined for a week or two at a time, no solar, not enough wind, and natural gas fired plants running flat out, hydroelectric performance inhibited by icing, and there starts being rolling blackouts, so population in general heads down to home depot to get a generator… then several thousand fumey generators running (emissions not as tight as for vehicles.) Even if some amazing storage tech is brought into the equation, the people holding the purse strings will probably think a few days reserve is enough, and every 3-5 years it won’t be..

        1. Perhaps but the damage is done after you build wind / solar, you get a decade or two of high output and then it’s time to refit or update. Engines keep doing damage in use.
          It’s easier to regulate the PGE / metal mining sites than thousands or motors across multiple countries.

          1. Think you missed my point a little, yes the engines will keep doing damage in use, because due to an imbalance of wind/solar in the grid, no room was left for an alternative when the wind and solar plants are not producing enough and demand is high, thus causing a fallback to something even dirtier, than leaving enough gas plants in the mix.

            What I was getting at really, was that further deployment of wind/solar is absolutely useless without some good storage technology for balancing demand against production.

        2. You’ve mentioned storage, but I think that load shedding has a lot of scope to improve in the future.

          Some people like to run their AC at 15 deg C all summer and get upset about it, but I think central control of certain loads (all AC is now limited to 23 deg C minimum, for example) should be able to help ride through “droughts” of solar/wind.

        3. “hydroelectric performance inhibited by icing”

          What are you talking about? I live in Quebec Canada. Most of our electricy is from hydro-electricity as far north as James bay (53.8 deg north) It works all well in winter when temperature drop as low as -40F. And power failure are very rare event here.

  3. Some wave powered generators are able to go into “safe mode” for when the sea gets stormy. Is it possible to design a turbine that can transition between states in a similar fashion (and do so economically?)

    1. Yes you can have feathering blades, or other systems. Typically though, you want to capture energy from large area per device, so you build it big, then even feathered blades have huge leverage forces going on at the hub in 220mph wind. So really what this points to is that we should build shit smaller. If that was scaled up to commercial wind farm size it would probably blow over or apart just as easy.

  4. A much simpler system can be made with a Savonius style turbine and a direct drive to a water pump for stored gravitational potential, two reservoir system. You just have to increase the load on the pump, volume of water moved per unit time, in proportion to the energy available to the turbine. There are a number of ways of doing this but they are all relatively simple and very robust.

    1. savety!

      Let me name a few of disastrous nuclear reactor failure.

      2011, Fukujima Japan, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_Daiichi_nuclear_disaster
      1986, Chornobyl, Ukraine, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobyl_disaster
      1979, Three miles Island, U.S.A. , https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Mile_Island_accident_health_effects

      For a complete list by contry: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_nuclear_power_accidents_by_country

      1. That’s 3… if you compare how many ppl died because of these and then compare how many people die because of other means of electricity generation, nuclear kills less by orders of magnitude…
        Also, the 3 have one thing in common – and old design. New ones are far better and much safer, new plants have to built so that the old ones could be shut down and dismantled.

        p.s. the transcripts are “Chernobyl” and “Fukushima”

        1. Language nerd here! Since neither Russian/Ukrainian or Japanese use the Latin alphabet, the translation of proper nouns can vary depending on the preferences of the person doing the translating. “Черно́быль” is especially ambiguous because English doesn’t even have the vowel sound that “ы” makes, let alone hard and soft symbols like Russian has. I don’t know anything about Japanese but you can likely draw the same conclusions.

          1. Romanji (the bar over the “o” is missing, I know) is the romanticized transliteration version of the Japanese language that uses the Latin alphabet and is acceptable by the Japanese for the purpose of typing and other communication uses.

        2. Fun fact: people are still dying from Chernobyl
          And another fun fact: Fukushima was suppose to be super safe and state of the art.
          But I guess if someone builds a brand new nuclear plant today and 2 years later there is a disaster you will again say ‘meh it’s outdated unsafe design unlike the modern 2 years later one which is super safe’

          Oh and then there is the spent fuel of these things and what to do with it and how to transport it.

          1. The Wrights killed the guy in the Army that had been their biggest asset in trying to get an Army contract. There have been plane crashes since, but every year commercial aviation weeds out another failure source and every so often a new one works its way in.

            It takes time to look at all the unlikely ways for a nuclear plant to fail. Fukushima, for example, needed an earthquake and a tidal wave and would have been fine if the back-up generators had been on the roof instead of the basement. Chernobyl happened because it was forced to happen by people checking to see what would happen in a forced failure.

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