When discussions of renewable energy are undertaken, the focus is often on large scale projects. In truth, the answer may be platforms developed for a more local application.
When renewable energy is discussed, most people picture large structures. With solar, it is a valley full of solar panels glittering in the sun. With wind power, most think of large turbines gracefully twirling in the wind as they sit in valleys or up on hills. As more money is put into renewable energy research, the research results are producing an entirely new spectrum of devices.
With wind power, one of the issues is finding optimal places for placing turbines. Monetarily, this can be problematic. The best wind locations are often located smack dab in the middle of developed areas. Even for areas that are available, the cost of setting up transmission lines for the resulting energy can be obscene. Given this catch-22 situation, many have started working outside the box on wind power platforms.
Oregon State University and AeroVironment, Inc, have come up with a unique solution for the wind power problem. Their idea is to abandon the wind farm idea completely. Instead, they are looking to applications that can be used on a per structure basis. In this case, the solution is micro wind turbines.
Micro wind turbines are essentially wind turbines on a scale of a couple of feet in height instead of thirty or forty feet. The idea is to place the turbines on the roofs of buildings to capture the wind that is often found rushing over the edge of roofs. The turbines are designed to be modular, meaning they can be added to the roof on an as needed basis. This is accomplished by using a track system similar to lighting in a home as the base for the turbines. Depending on the energy needs of the structure, one, ten or 100 turbines can be installed.
Admittedly, a row of little wind turbines may look a bit odd on your average office building. On industrial buildings and warehouses, however, the structures would make little or no difference to the appearance. Heck, they would probably be an improvement. More importantly, the turbines would represent energy independence for many of the businesses using the buildings. Unlike solar, the turbines would generate power during both the day and night, meaning power could be stored in batteries or the utility grid at night to cover high energy use periods during the day.
Micro wind turbines may or may not become part of the solution to the energy issues before us. What is clear, however, is talented people are starting to focus on the subject and come up with innovative solutions.