Industry Market Trends

Could Windshine Electric's Turbine Revolutionize Wind Power?

Jun 07, 2012

I wrote an article examining the value of wind subsidies and, as a happy result, heard from Alan White, managing general partner of Windshine Electric, a project aiming to find a more efficient method of converting wind to usable power by using turbines instead of the current inefficient windmill design. The Windshine Electric design has been in development for over 10 years, and White explains, "The goal was to take all that is wrong with windmills and make a better product. Just like airplanes went from propellers to jets, so can wind."

White is confident in the Windshine Electric design and puts it simply: "Airplanes went from propellers to turbines for a reason. They are simple, more powerful and require less maintenance. The same with wind power."

White knows whereof he speaks. His background is in aircraft, so he decided to start with a standard turbine jet engine design and modify it to accommodate wind power.

He is also aware that the technology must survive in the market and not leech off wasteful government subsidies. "The goal was to make a design that would be profitable by its own with no governmental money necessary," White declares.

It's refreshing, frankly, that White seems to understand what so many alternative energy hopefuls do not: Oil is not the enemy but is what keeps the world working and helps in the manufacture of their green technologies, and government subsidies aren't sustainable. "No government money, even from the beginning," he declares. "I have not taken any government funds to this point and won't. Also, I am not anti-oil, as I cannot build one unit without refined machine oil. I was an Exxon rep many years ago; I know the value of oil companies."

The Design: Turbines, Not Mills

White explains that the design is "a true wind turbine, an enclosed blade turbine that gets more out a segment of wind than a windmill can." They can be placed on towers 100 feet tall, "not the 400-foot tall ones now," he says.

The turbines White is designing are said to be scalable for commercial, residential and even down to cars. "The auto units are going to make [electric vehicles] a real option," he says with confidence, adding that the turbines "should help them get about 400 miles instead of 50 out of a charge."

The Windshine Electric design, White explains, has two generating surfaces instead of just one. This makes the whole unit a generator with a solar accelerate in the middle. Other crucial design aspects are being kept under wraps until the U.S. Patent Office has issued a number.

A standard windmill, White says, has a rated output, or the maximum production it can achieve before having to be shut down. "They are rated right before their cutout speeds. They are also so big and heavy, they have no need for light winds, as their cut speeds are around 8 to 10 mph or so and more for the larger ones," he notes.

This means that the current windmill design essentially wastes low-wind energy and "cannot use wind at speeds that produce real power," White says, noting that his company's units are designed to have no cutout speeds, "so real heavy wind can be turned into power." And since the design has a solar accelerator, it "will begin to operate with almost no wind, which means our power curve is much bigger, producing more overall power."

Windshine Electric thus far has no data to offer, since it hasn't built a prototype. But White pronounces himself "not worried" about the design, adding that current windmills hate gusts and quick directional changes, whereas "our units will use both. We will harness the gusts and extend the rotations of the turbine after the gust has passed. These are smart units, not just windmills."

The turbine design was submitted to the Patent Office in February 2010, and within the past month, Windshine Electric got a call saying that "it is looking good," which is leading White to hope that the technology will pass on the first patent attempt. He says, "The generating surfaces are unique and will push the envelope a long way. The flow design and the ability to disperse heat is crucial to production."

And it will do away with some common complaints about windmills; White promises no bird kills and whoosh noises and placement practically anywhere. "With no spinning blades, the threat to wildlife is mitigated. Birds will not just fly into our turbine, as they do not like vortex wind and neither do bats," he explains.

Size Matters. Size matters, too. The Windshine Electric units are said to be much smaller than standard windmills and can be installed "much closer to the current infrastructure and thus integrate faster with grid," White explains, so residential units and commercial units working in concert "will provide plenty of supplemental power." There isn't even much of a need to find perfect wind spots, since "they are not an eyesore, they do not have to be hidden and, since they are not 400 feet tall, they can be anywhere," White continues.

He is serious about the home usage capability of the wind turbine design. White details: "The home units are projected to be only about 6 feet long with a 3-foot induction front. They can be put anywhere on the roof. We are going to try and keep the price at about $7,500 or less, as that is where it will be profitable for the end-user with no subsidy, and we can produce them in quantity to be profitable with no government money."White also sees potential for the turbine units in areas of the world that have no power, claiming the units can go up fast and produce power right away. "Being versatile, they can go where no windmill would think of going, even the Antarctic," he says. (Cue Star Trek theme.)

Solar Power Helps A Bit. The obvious goal of the design is to produce as much power per mile per hour of wind as possible. White sees one huge advantage of his turbine design: a solar component that turns the unit when the wind is not blowing, and "because they are internal blades they can spin in the highest winds."

He does hedge a bit when discussing the need for backup power generation. It's not a favorite topic of any alternative energy producer, but White does admit that wind is purely supplemental -- at least for the foreseeable future. "As regards to backup generation, that is something that will get worked out once we have units up and running," he says. "Wind is supplemental power, not necessarily dedicated power. It can be in the right locations, but that is a question for another day."

The automotive application is clearly an area White enjoys talking about. "For cars, we have a cool design that uses the forced air of car travel to turn the generator, which in turn does self-charging of the batteries," he says, explaining that "the solar component will be useful when the car is sitting parked to continue the charging and when plugged in it will make the charge go faster. We are hoping for direct drive (DD) -- 20 percent in the first generation up to DD plus 5 percent in future lines, meaning at highway speeds, you should be making what you are using. It is all about range extension and using less batteries. The fewer batteries the better."

He isn't looking to get into the production side of the design, however. "Our goal is to license the product to current OEMs, as they have the customer base," White notes. "Also, they have the factories necessary to build them. On the residential side, we will license them to a major electronics company for mass production and the auto ones to the auto industry. Our goal is to be the design guys."

White isn't alone in the venture. He's brought aboard Windshine Electric none other than Dr. Dan Kammen, an acclaimed physicist and the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize winner for his work with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as a partner.

White says Kammen "liked that [the turbine design] had so few moving parts, used solar in a unique way and was all about making power." White elaborates, "He was intrigued as to what he saw, and as we talked more, he came to understand that if wind was going to be a part of the equation, this was the direction it had to go, as the windmills have no real purpose without government help."

Above any scientific or technological input that Kammen might offer, his mere presence is a tremendous boost to the credibility of the small outfit Windshine Electric.