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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Cool Fix for a Hot Planet

Air Date: Week of February 20, 2009

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A new turbine design throws a curve to the wind. Sandra Larson reports.

Transcript

GELLERMAN: Just ahead – what color is Canada’s economic parachute – but first – here’s a cool fix for a hot planet from Sandra Larson.

[COOL FIX THEME]

LARSON: White three-blade turbines spinning in fields and on hilltops have become the image of wind power. Those tall windmills have limitations, though. They need lots of space, and winds of about 10 miles per hour just to start generating. And when winds are too fierce, they shut down.

So an engineering professor at Cleveland State University is working on a smaller system that could use a larger range of wind speeds.

Majid Rashidi has one and a half million dollars in federal and state grants to construct a prototype of his wind power system this spring on a five-story campus building. It will be a 25-foot-wide cylinder with four small turbines suspended around it.

When air goes around a curve, its speed increases. So the cylinder accelerates air while deflecting it to the surrounding turbines. This helps the system generate energy in very low winds. And its three-foot blades can withstand high winds that might damage larger turbines.

The cylinder and turbine structure will have a capacity of up to 100 kilowatts. So it’s not meant to compete with large turbines, which produce megawatts. But this smaller system could power a few homes, or supplement the energy needs of larger buildings, and can be placed on the rooftops of urban and suburban buildings.

Professor Rashidi says the water towers and silos around Midwestern towns could serve as ready-made cylinders, making construction faster and cheaper.

And so a new shape of wind generator may be coming to town, ready to catch the wind – from lazy summer breezes to gale force gusts.

That’s this week’s cool fix for a hot planet. I’m Sandra Larson.

GELLERMAN: And if you have a Cool Fix for a Hot Planet, we'd like to know it. If we use your idea on the air, we'll send you a sleek electric blue Living on Earth tire gauge.

Keep your tires properly inflated and you could save as much as $280 a year in fuel. That according to a study done at Carnegie Mellon University. Call our listener line at 800-218-9988, that's 800-218-99-88. Or email coolfix—that's one word—at loe.org. That's coolfix@loe.org.

 

 

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