A unique wind funnel–based power generating system that is quickly garnering interest from investors could see first construction kickoff in the first quarter of 2016.
The INVELOX (short for “increased velocity”) technology uses a funnel system that captures the wind and brings it to ground-level turbines and rotors for easier and cheaper operation and maintenance (Figure 3). Its developer, Minneapolis-based SheerWind, says that the technology allows wind energy to be produced from record-low wind speeds of 2 m per second in locations close to the end user—and even on rooftops in urban areas.
SheerWind in early January confirmed it had signed a licensing agreement with Dutch investment firm Reikon Beheer that will allow the INVELOX system to be marketed and deployed in the Netherlands. The agreement comes on the heels of a similar agreement signed with SheerWindChina, which says it is already in negotiations with Chinese customers for the installation of two 200-kW rooftop and a 1-MW ground-based system that could start operating this year.
While enthusiasm for the new technology grows, so does skepticism about its viability. Ducted turbines have been slow to take off, owing to questions related to technical implementation and financial viability. “One technical issue, for instance, which has been insurmountable to address is the implementation of a mechanism design which will allow for self-alignment of large-scale ducted turbines with the wind direction. In addition, ducted turbines still need to be placed at a certain height which increases the technical complexity as well as the cost,” said researchers in a 2015 article in the journal Energy that assesses the technology’s performance.
However, they concluded: “INVELOX eliminates the need for self-alignment with the wind because its intake is omnidirectional and all rotating parts are on the ground which simplifies the operation and maintenance.”