SolarAero recently unveiled a new bladeless wind turbine that offers several advantages over current wind turbines — it emits hardly any noise in operation, has few moving parts, and since it doesn’t use spinning blades it’s much less of a hazard to bats and birds. The whole assembly is inside an enclosed housing, with screened inlets and outlets to keep animals safely out. It also can be installed on sensitive locations such as radar installations or sites under surveillance where the rotating blades cause detrimental effects. Read on to learn what makes it work.
Whether they are vertical axis or horizontal axis, typical wind turbines work by catching moving air with blades, and using that force to rotate the axle, which turns a generator to produce electricity. Instead of pushing on blades, SolarAero’s turbine is based on the Tesla turbine originally developed by Nikolai Tesla. The principle of the Tesla turbine is to set up an array of closely-spaced, very thin, and extremely smooth metal disks. The viscous flow of air moving in parallel to the disks is what propels the turbine, instead of buffeting blades with moving air. This makes for a more compact mechanism with only one moving part: the turbine-driveshaft assembly.
According to the company, this turbine should cost around $1.50 per watt of rated output, and have a lifetime operating cost of about 12 cents per kilowatt-hour — comparable to, or even better than, current retail electrical rates in many parts of the country. This would make the SolarAero turbine about 2/3 the price of a comparable bladed unit, and because of the significantly lower operating costs, lifetime maintenance could be just 1/4 the cost. At this point the project is still under development, and no manufacturer has been lined up as of yet.