Renewable energy technology just got a much needed breath of fresh air. During the TEDGlobal 2012 Conference held in Edinburgh, Scotland the head of the Tunisian company Saphon Energy introduced a radical innovation in wind technology. Saphon has developed a design that allows turbines to function without blades. The turbine, named the “Saphonian” after a Carthaginian wind deity, took its inspiration from sailboats. Without the need for rotating blades, the Saphonian is quieter than traditional models, and can harness the power of the wind without hurting wildlife.
Hassine Labaied, the head of Saphon Energy, may have revolutionized the world of renewables when he introduced the “zero blade” Saphonian turbine at the TEDGlobal 2012 Conference this past June. While current technologies only capture 30% of the wind’s kinetic energy, the Saphonian can retain up to 80%, according to Anis Aouini, the turbine’s inventor. Resembling a large dish, the Saphonian reduces the amount of energy lost through poor aerodynamics and discards unnecessary structural elements such as the blades, hub, and gear box. Its moving pistons can create hydraulic pressure that can be stored in a accumulator or converted directly into electricity.
More efficient and less expensive than its bladed counterparts, the turbine costs almost half as much to manufacture. The technology was patented in Tunisia in September of 2010, and received its international patent in March of this year. Currently, Saphon is seeking a partner to produce the Saphonian for the market. They hope to finalize their search by the end of 2012, and estimate that the turbine will reach the market within two years. In Tunisia alone, the Saphonian could potentially produce up to 20% of the country’s domestic energy. With that kind of potential, it is exciting to think of how the turbine could inflate the renewable energy market in the United States.