New answer to wind farm blades: Skybrators

A seagull could be affected by wind turbines

Does it ever seem that every time mankind invents a solution to tackle a problem within the climate change sphere, the solution creates another problem?

Electric vehicles, for example, might not need removal of carbon emissions for petrol. But carbon emissions are, nonetheless, created, mostly by the process of making the vehicles. And of course they need batteries and for that we still need to mine the earth. The full solution is to use public transport, of course.

Likewise, while solar panels mean we don’t have to burn fossil fuels for heating, their manufacture still requires metals and the batteries to store energy require us to mine the earth. We are working through a series of “least worst” options.

These thoughts came to mind when I read about Skybrators – the reinvented wind turbine. A company in Spain, Vortex Bladeless, has invented the bladeless version, solving various complaints about wind turbines.

Their design ditches the ninth century invention of rotating blades, which is advantageous for more than one reason. Firstly the blades do not interrupt the flight paths of birds. Secondly they are potentially less noisy because of the lack of rotating blades. Thirdly they therefore use less steel, which at present cannot be made without using coal.

Thinking of wildlife

It is the friendliness to wildlife which has caught much of the attention about these vibrating beanpoles, which will surely generate some noise as they whistle in the wind.

I once heard about a wind turbine project rejected by a local authority at the planning stage because objections included a horse rider claiming the animal would be spooked by the blades going round. Neighbours near potential on-land wind turbines historically don’t like the idea claiming they are unsightly. Yet they exist along open roads in Scotland and not so open places in East Anglia.

Wind farm projects out to sea have not always been popular either, especially with conservationists who worried they would interfere with the life of seabirds. The RSPB said humans had to find a way to work harmoniously with nature. And now the bird charity and the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) have welcomed the new invention.

The Vortex Bladeless company has invented a three metre high oscillating cylinder that vibrates in the wind to generate energy, rather than using wide-spreading blades. A video of how the new machine works is on YouTube. It all looks a bit rude, but will this improve our planet’s sustainability as we fight the climate emergency?

Have one in your garden?

Other advantages of the Vortex Bladeless turbine are that they open a new market: household settings. Not ready for the market yet, they certainly have the advantage that they could transform residential power by being put up in people’s gardens, for example.

Unfortunately a three metre wind turbine might only power three lights, a fridge and a television. A 13 metre one, plus solar, might allow a house to be powered off grid. However, planning permission in the UK only allows turbine structured domestically to be 11 metres. So at present householders might need several to power their homes.

But imagine if you had one in your back garden. Would it scare the birds? Probably not more than they are now. They are spooked enough by winds. Would it scare the neighbour’s cat away from your flowerbeds and vegetable patches? Well, there’s another advantage!

Of course, while an off-shore version would solve interfering with birds, it wouldn’t resolve issues of affecting life on the seabed. Wind turbine farms need huge structural supports to stay in place and cabling., all of which involves tinkering with the planet in order to solve mankind’s energy problems.