Gallery: Bird-Friendly Saphonian Wind Turbine Ditches Blades for a More...


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.

+Saphon Energy

Via Environmental News Network


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  1. Dilip John September 29, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    If they can get outside certification, and cost is low, maybe good for a Kickstarter campaign.

  2. wxcooper January 25, 2014 at 7:43 pm

    i am waiting for this product to be costed

  3. hsaphon December 24, 2013 at 9:17 am

    the Saphonian advanced device on BBC World News
    this might address to a certain extent the skepticism around the concept..

  4. hsaphon December 24, 2013 at 9:07 am

    “Skepticism is the first step toward Truth” – Denis Diderot

  5. John Hill-Daniel July 23, 2013 at 5:03 am

    This from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds on conventional wind tubines:
    “If wind farms are located away from major migration routes and important feeding, breeding and roosting areas of those bird species known or suspected to be at risk, it is likely that they will have minimal impacts. ”

  6. Early Ehlinger December 20, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    So here is the patent. If I understand it correctly (and I may not) It looks like the wind blowing on the device will change its angle of attack, thereby making it “want” to shift angles from the continued presence of the wind. The back side is connected to some hydraulic cylinders so that the constant shifting of angles will in theory increase the hydraulic pressure. That pressure is then used to drive a generator. Interesting concept – not sure that it will be any less maintenance-prone than a wind turbine or actually more efficient, though. Would be fun to put one next to a traditional windmill inside a wind tunnel and compare results.

  7. Larry Gilman November 16, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    WBrooke on Betz limit claim: “This has to do with the fluid dynamics of the air passing through the device rather than the design of the device itself.” The Betz limit is calculated for a turbine: i.e., any flow-through device. But the Saphonia device is not a turbine: the air flows around it, not through it, tipping the “sail” through a knot path. Ultimately of course the question of efficiency ceiling will boil down to reproducible demonstrations of hardware — but where there is zero fuel cost, conversion “efficiency” is not a fundamental issue anyway. It all comes down to levelized $ per kilowatt-hour. If they win on this they win, period. This remains to be seen. The graveyard of brilliant ideas is well-populated.

  8. Brent Jarvis November 11, 2012 at 6:50 am

    The article doesn’t say how much wind is needed for it to work or what would happen in case of extreme wind events. Before I would invest in this, I would have to see it work and put it thru several of my own tests……….

  9. Dmitry Podogov November 7, 2012 at 2:20 am

    They say this turbine goes beyond the Betz limit… Looks like it doesnt need the air stream to flow THROUGH the turbine, it needs the wind just to put a pressure on it, like on a sail..

  10. WBrooke November 6, 2012 at 11:45 am

    This seems like a dubious claim. The theoretical limit to the efficiency of any device that extracts energy from the wind is called the Betz Limit, which is 16/27, or 59.3%. This has to do with the fluid dynamics of the air passing through the device rather than the design of the device itself. Think of it this way…if you extracted 100% of the energy from a stream of air, then it would have zero momentum upon leaving the device and air would essentially “pile up” behind the rotor (more correctly the stream tube after the rotor would have to expand to infinite radius). The best you can do is extract 59.3% of the energy from the air stream. Maybe the Saphonian designers mean 80% of the Betz Limit?

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