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Towards a Better Designed Wind Turbine

Updated on March 20, 2013

Wind power represents a real and cost effective means of sustainable, carbon-neutral and green energy production.

The disadvantages come from the fact that they need to be tall. The higher up you go the more likely you are to get the wind speeds you require. The wind turbine must be at least 75 metres tall. Some are even as high as 125 metres.

This presents a number of problems:

  • They are normally placed in a prominent position to maximise wind speed and therefore can be seen for miles. To some they represent an eye-sore on an otherwise-unspoilt environment
  • Their foundations can be as large as a 25 metre swimming pool
  • In order to withstand very large windspeeds, they must be sturdily built, making both the propellers and the base substantial structures. When it comes time to decommission them, they tall, thin structures represent a real challenge to dismantle especially as they are built in a windy environment
  • Finally, they are static so they must be built with the most prominent wind direction in mind. However, if they wind is blowing from another direction, their efficiency is reduced

These disadvantages have led to many people opposing their development in their areas.

What we need is a new way of looking at the problem. We need to go high without having a large structure to get us there. The answer is a floating platform that will not need substantial and permanent building to support it. Such a design is possible in the form of a helium-filled balloon or airship.

Originally designed in 1835 and still in limited use today, their design and effectiveness is well researched and documented. All you would need to do is to attach the propellers to the airship and raise it as high as you need to go. The only thing going down to the ground would be the power line and restraining chain to stop the cable moving about. As you can attach multiple propellers to the airship (depending on its size), the propellers do not need to be so big, reducing noise pollution. As they are not firmly attached to the ground, they can turn into the wind direction so they are always getting maximum efficiency. As the connection to the ground will not be as substantial as the conventional wind turbine, the area under the airship can still be used for agricultural use like grazing, or possibly orchards.

The real revolutionary part of this design is that the airships can be manufactured at a single location and then flown to their final destination.

There are essentially two components to the design: the airship and the propellers

The airship is made up of a number of components:

  1. The frame. The frame provides both shape and support for all of the other elements. Naturally it has to be sturdy but light. The material for the prototype will be aluminium which to promote its green credentials further would be recycled. It would be engineered using struts and other structures that add to the sturdiness of the design without adding to the weight. The frame allows us to make it any shape we want so if we designed it to be more like a wing, the wind would also increase its lifting ability
  2. The envelope. Some of the shape can be imposed by the way the envelope is made which will allow us to reduce the frame and therefore the weight that it is carrying. The envelope would be white on the outside and dark on the inside in order to help heat the gas inside. This is because a hot gas has more lift than its cooler counterpart and so by allowing the heat and light from the sun, we can heat the helium and get better lift at no extra cost in energy
  3. The gas. Hydrogen provides the greatest lift. But Helium is the only choice because it is just so much safer.
  4. Control.


The propeller is normally massively over-engineered for the job which makes it unnecessarily expensive. A simpler (and therefore cheaper) design is the old fashioned American- style windpump. Better yet is the Savonius and Darrieus design. The Savonius design is so simple that it can be made out of bits of plastic piping! Also because of the shape of the thing, it would be possible to have a group of smaller, lighter propellers rather than one big one. This should reduce the noise.


Both installation and decommissioning should be easy because there are no large, concrete solid structures to build or break down.


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    • philmaguire profile image

      philmaguire 7 years ago from Jersey, Iles de la Manche

      Thanks for your comment, tim-tim. You have an excellent point there. I do not think that it was an accident that the industrial revolution really took off at about the same time as they stopped building ugly buildings and machines and started investing them with beauty. According to one of the designers of Concorde, a pure physics solution to an engineering problem will be most beautiful because the solution will be most like that of nature. I see no reason why beauty should not be a requirement of engineering design. And if it overcomes an objection to wind power, all the better

    • tim-tim profile image

      Priscilla Chan 7 years ago from Normal, Illinois

      I remember when I took my first English in college last year or so, a girl from my class did an assay on that topic. Most people oppose to that because they think it is ugly. I think it is quite unique. We need to think of saving the earth and going green. It is a natural source,why not utilize it. Thanks for the great hub!