Spanish start-up Vortex Bladeless develops a bladeless turbine it says could change the landscape of renewable energy by generating power from spinning air whirlpools. Amy Pollock reports.
A suspension bridge in the United States stretching - and collapsing - in high winds in 1940... ...inspires a silent, swaying new-look wind turbine in Spain today. The bladeless turbine generates power from a single cone 'wobbling' in the wind. It's just like an opera singer hitting the high notes and shattering glass, says the developer. David Yanez co-founded the Spanish start-up, Vortex Bladeless. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) VORTEX BLADELESS CO-FOUNDER, DAVID YANEZ, SAYING: "We have all seen how a soprano who sings at a glass, by matching the tone of the voice to the glass, can breaking it. This type of resonance is a great way to transmit energy. What we do is, instead of using sound waves, is use the swirls, the vortices that are generated by a structure with wind." The six-metre windmill, made from fibreglass and carbon fibre, uses those wind vortices to create patterns of movement that can be converted into energy. The magnets at the base of the cone-shaped blade allow its movements to adjust according to the wind speed. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) VORTEX BLADELESS CO-FOUNDER, DAVID YANEZ, SAYING: "What we have is a mast, which is the top piece, and acts as a blade, it's constructed from the same material as a conventional generator, and what it does is oscillate transmitting its oscillation to a conventional alternator which by its own oscillation converts the wind's energy into electric energy." Vortex says its turbine will cost around 40 percent less than conventional three-bladed windmills, with a smaller carbon footprint and much lower maintenance costs. And it's much safer for passing birds. Encouraged by the results so far, Vortex is testing a smaller prototype for domestic use in developing countries. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) VORTEX BLADELESS CO-FOUNDER, DAVID YANEZ, SAYING: "What we are trying to do now is develop a very small energy distribution sample that is less than three metres high and can be set up on the rooftops of homes." Vortex's new turbine could prove a boost for renewable energy after Spain's financial crisis hit the industry hard. With investment, the start-up hopes generating energy from wind will be a breeze.