While solar advancements continue apace, wind energy technology has remained fairly stagnant over the years, making it in most cases less viable than fossil fuels or nuclear energy. It’s expensive, harmful to birds and bats, deeply inefficient and comes with a host of annoyances such as noise and vibration.
Responding to what they perceive as a massive gap in innovation, Saphon Energy from Tunisia has designed blade-less turbines that mimic the shape and function of sails. Because they don’t rotate, Saphonian turbines are harmless to wildlife, and completely eliminate aerodynamic and mechanical losses associated with conventional turbines. And they cost nearly half as much to produce!
Tunis-based Saphon Energy has been working on their revolutionary new wind-energy generating prototype for the last two years. In their design inspired by sails, the firm has addressed many of the problems associated with standard spinning turbines, including efficiency, storage and high costs.
The blades are replaced by a sail-shaped body while both hub and gearbox are removed. Instead of spinning the blades’ rotor, the wind is being harnessed by a sail which follows a non-rotational back and forth motion. Such movement follows a knot path and allows the conversion of the majority of the kinetic energy into mechanical energy (using pistons). The same is then converted to a hydraulic pressure that could either be stored (in hydraulic accumulator) or instantly converted to electricity via a hydraulic motor and a generator. Thanks to the aerodynamic shape of the Saphonian, the drag force becomes the driving force of the system while the lift force becomes almost nil.
The Saphonian, according to the firm, is 2.3 times more efficient than spinning blades and costs 45% less to produce. This cost can be slashed even further by customizing certain components.
Plus, thanks to the hydraulic system, energy can be stored, which creates a more stable supply. This is particularly helpful for introducing wind energy generation into existing national grids that favor consistent and stable energy input.
After testing their first 300-500 Watt prototype that confirmed the engineers’ theoretical postulates, Saphon Energy is now working on a second generation prototype that will improve upon the hydro-mechanical performance of the first.
Mitigating global warming with wind
According to the International Energy Agency, if we fail to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, which would cost the globe a total of $45 trillion each year, most countries will have to spend up to 20% of their annual gross domestic product on cleaning up after global warming’s wrath. This says nothing of the discomforts and loss of human life that will accompany increased drought, floods and extreme weather events.
Saphon Energy, under the guidance of engineer and inventor Mr. Anis Aouini, and Mr. Hassine Labaied, the firm’s business and finance guru, hopes to play a small role in ensuring faster implementation of clean, renewable energy systems. And they’re doing all of this from their own base just outside of Tunisia’s capital, Tunis.
Tunisia is one of the most forward-thinking countries in the region, at least in terms of cleantech development. To learn more, read about their participation in the Desertec program, which aims to solarize the Sahara in order to provide clean energy to Europe.