Mankind has been harnessing the power of the wind for centuries. Sails have carried ships to distant shores, and windmills have ground grain into flour and pumped water from deep beneath the earth. Today the idea of yoking the gales to produce energy is fast evolving into the next industrial revolution, rivaling even solar panels. Take a look at how the wind turbine is changing the way the world, and cannabis growers, in particular, look at power.
Wind farms: easy come, easy go
By now you have surely seen scenes like this dotting the landscapes of wide open spaces across the globe. Wind turbines are big business, as more regions see the potential for cheap, clean energy. The technology is developing at a rapid pace, as even these streamlined behemoths are still based a design that is over 400 years old.
The bladed, horizontal windmills of the picturesque Netherlands and these modern machines share the same basic principles, but advances in the concept and more minds focusing on the solutions have produced some fantastic results. With these new advances, large-scale wind farms like the one shown above might change their look, or even fade away as quickly as they sprouted up.
The Vortex Bladeless is based on the phenomena of wind swirls, or the swirling currents that manifest behind any obstacle in the path of the wind. Bridges have fallen due to the power of wind swirls. With a carbon fiber and fiberglass cone, and he motor at the bottom to increase sturdiness, the design causes the vortex to spin synchronously along the entire cone. It also has a ring of magnets at the base of the cone, to give the rotations a boost regardless of wind speed. Safer for birds and completely silent, it can adapt to any wind speed with its oscillatory technology.
A Dutch renewable energy start-up called The Archimedes has developed a spiral turbine that gathers energy continuously from the wind, rather than the smaller amount gathered from traditional blades. The inventor, Marinus Miermet says it reaches 80% of the maximum power output of the theoretical maximum energy that can be harnessed from the wind. It is also much quieter, as traditional turbines have been derided for causing noise leading to insomnia in residents close by, which is why large wind farms are developed in rural areas. The company states that this new design could produce half of an average household’s energy, or 1,500kWh of energy a year at wind speeds of only 5mph!
The wind funneling concept designed by SheerWind replaces the expensive tower-mounted generators with a funnel that captures the wind from all directions at once and combines the force as it goes down the tube, squeezing it to increase the velocity, resulting in more power as it hits the ground-based generator. It can produce power from winds as low as 2 mph, vibrational noise is minimized with the generator on the ground, and the lack of massive blades protects birds. It boasts less than 2 cents per kWh, less than 5-year payback on investment, 50% less operating and maintenance costs, 43% less capital expenses, and 90% less land use.
New Wind, a research and development company in France, has created this new unobtrusive design to look like a tree, at 36 feet tall with 72 micro-turbine artificial leaves spinning silently producing 3.1 kWh of energy at 5 mph wind speeds. Designed by Jérôme Michaud-Larivière, it can create power in even winds as low as 3mph. It is by far the most elegant and stylish wind turbine to date, capable of being placed in public areas artistically.
A company from Tunisia has designed a zero-blade device that can overcome the Betz’ limit, or the theoretical limit that no turbine can capture more than 59.3% of the kinetic energy of the wind. It costs 45% less than a conventional turbine, because it has no blades, no hub, and no gearbox. Instead, it uses a hydraulic accumulator to cheaply store the energy produced and converts it into electricity with the use of a hydraulic motor and generator.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology startup Altaeros Energies has created a floating wind turbine that also delivers WiFi connectivity and weather data, ideal for remote locations. Called the BAT-Buoyant Airborne Turbine, it is filled with helium and can rise to 1,000 to 2,000 feet, making it able to take advantage of strong, high-altitude winds. By doing so, they can generate roughly double the power of conventional turbines. The energy is transferred to the ground through the tether cables, which can retract the flying power generators in severe weather. If you have kids, you might recognize this design from the near-future movie Big Hero 6, where dozens of them floated above the city decorated as colorful Koi and other fanciful designs.
These technologies are great, but what does it all have to do with cannabis? A lot, actually. Smaller home generator systems can now produce enough energy to run a small grow room, and larger systems can potentially power commercial grow warehouses! Even now, the NOW Corporation has signed a joint venture agreement with a planned 10,000-acre hydroponic hemp and medical cannabis venture farming operation. It hopes to develop a successful proof-of-concept through the project to increase sales and long-term revenue.
Its design features a row of blades that rotate on the outer ring, looking visually more like a merry-go-round. By “stacking” the blades in this manner, they act cumulatively like a sail, capturing the wind and producing far more power than traditional systems. This design also decreases stress on the structure, decreasing maintenance costs.
With so many companies working to increase the efficiency of both small and large-scale wind generators, we as consumers are getting the benefits of rapid advancements and competitive pricing, making the option to go off grid easier and more affordable every day. One of the biggest hurdles for growing your own cannabis is the cost of electricity. Now, you can choose an option that helps your grow op pay for itself, many times over! Combine this with solar panels, which are also advancing in efficiency, and you can have a steady flow of power, rain or shine, windy or calm. Check out your local hardware store, as many small systems are already available! Get off the grid and start growing!
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