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Video File: Wind energy conversion - a windmill without moving parts

Delft University Of Technology : 15 April, 2013  (Technical Article)
A pioneering wind energy converter can convert wind energy into electricity without the use of moving parts. This means there is far less wear and tear, maintenance costs are lower and there is no nuisance due to noise or shadows. This means that the turbine is ideally suited for installation offshore or in urban areas, for example on the roof of a high-rise building.
Video File: Wind energy conversion - a windmill without moving parts

A model is on display outside the faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science at Delft University of Technology (TU Delft). The model-EWICON (Electrostatic WInd Energy CONvertor), designed by Mecanoo architects, was developed by TU Delft in a consortium with Wageningen UR and commercial businesses*) as part of the Dutch government's economy/ecology/technology programme.

The EWICON principle is expected to have several advantages over the standard conventional wind turbine systems. Most importantly, apart from the floating charged particles, there are no moving/rotating parts present in the EWICON system. This means that wear and tear commonly found in the gearbox systems of wind turbines will not be present in the EWICON system. This will have a positive effect on the maintenance and investment costs.

Secondly, due to the lack of moving/rotating parts, there is less noise originating from the EWICON system. The noise would be comparable to that of wind flowing around and through tall buildings or structures. Thirdly, since there are no rotating blades present, no intermittent shadows will be present. This is especially important for the placement of wind energy systems in the urban or rural settings.

Finally, since there is no rotational movement in the EWICON system, increasing the wind surface area does not necessarily have to go hand in hand with an increased circular wind area: using conventional wind turbines (left), increasing the wind surface area means the diameter of the circular area needs to be increased. Using an EWICON (right), the wind surface area is increased by stretching its width.

The model-EWICON is quite abstract in appearance. A fluid steel frame in the shape of a rectangular zero surrounds a framework of horizontal steel tubes. Within the framework, charged droplets are formed, which are then blown away by the wind. The movement of the droplets produces electric power that can be transferred to the electricity grid. In 2009, Mecanoo used the EWICON in their design of the Stadstimmerhuis 010 building in Rotterdam, with two EWICONS being deployed to create the 010 symbol on the roof. The EWICON will be developed further, if funding is secured for follow-up research.

Wind energy is converted to electrical energy by letting the wind move charged particles against the direction of an electric field. The advantage of this type of conversion is that no rotational movement is required, as occurs in conventional wind turbines. There have been several patents that propose a similar idea; however, most of these patents do not have an energy efficient solution for creating charge carriers. Here, charged particles have been created using two spraying methods, electrohydrodynamic atomisation and high pressure monodisperse spraying. Using both methods, wind energy has been converted to electric energy and delivered to an electrical load with positive efficiency.

Wind energy convertor EWICON
animation, TU Delft

How does a "windmill" without
mechanically moving parts work?
TU Delft researchers Johan Smit
and Dhiradj Djairam developed the
EWICON (Electrostatic Windenergy
CONvertor), a windenergy convertor
that transforms windenergy into
electricity without mechanical moving
parts. This animation shows how it
works and can be deployed.

Further details: Djairam, D. and Smit, J.J. The Electrostatic Wind Energy Converter: electrical performance of a high voltage prototype

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