Airloom Energy

More from the know-nothing online “science” magazines:
Bill Gates’ Energy Ventures is said to be backing this one.
If you read the comments after the article, they pretty well cover the bad aspects, and the fact that it’s been tried before. And this idea has been discussed in these AWE forums as long as I can remember. So funny how they just have to a quote super-low energy price, 1.3 cents/kWh even though if you check the link toward the end of the article, they’ve been failing at this for seven years already and can’t getting it running very well. They make you issue such overoptimistic statements to get funding. You can’t just say “How the hell do I know what the electricity will cost? This is just an experiment! What do you want me to lie to you???” Nah, the grant reviewers don’t want to hear that.
They want you to lie. That’s so they won’t get in trouble for funding you after it fails.

Imagine those cables zinging through the track at 170 MPH. Hope it doesn’t jump a sheave like the tail rotor pitch-control cable of that helicopter that almost killed Roddy! Imagine the noise, the friction at that speed! ZZZZZzzzzzzZT! Did you see the teeny little rectangular boxes to extract the energy?
Not saying some related version couldn’t work, but the problem is, if your blades are going 160 MPH, so is your cable. Hmmm…


From the patent the power takeoff may be either magnetic (along the track I guess) or rack and pinion.

The wings may have pitch control, flaps etc.

Also the number of blades [or more specifically the wing area] may be changed according to wind conditions. This one I dont see just how that could be feasible in a dynamic way.

Anyone who ever tried a ski lift may quickly be led to believe that this system could be a noise nuisance.

I think the wings need a lot of support. Most probably I would say multiple tracks are necessary, then a system to ensure the wings are orthogonal to the track. If a single track is used, they would probably need ailerons or dihedral+rudder to maintain the orientation of the blade. But then you do have «wind» which is just throwing a huge monkey wrench into this whole plan. Handling gusts will be rough. As will changing wind gradients.

Personally I would have liked to se a system where the roll and pitch angle of the wings are hinged, and then add a tail with elevator and rudder to control the angle of attack and roll angle (if the wing has dihedral effect) with elevator and rudder.

I think magnetic PTO is possible and rack pinion is probably not feasible. But even magnetic PTO does seem like a very expensive option. You would need to place magnets or coils all around the track. Seems like a Makani style PTO with turbines on each wing and a slip transfer of electricity may be simpler?

They also claim as being offshore viable. I don’t see how you could maintain that structure in offshore conditions, facing waves and rust in particular. Theres just to many forces on a tower at sea and this huge shape needs to be maintained quite tightly.

Right now I dont quite see how Airloom is going to pull all of this together. But who knows, maybe they will eventually figure it out. In that case it can be good for places where wind has a predominant direction. Which would at least serve my location quite well.

Hello Tallak:
As someone who has ridden ski lifts my entire life, worked at a ski resort, etc., I would say the cable part of ski lifts isn’t usually all that noisy, but the speed is reasonable. if you tried to increase the speed where the chairs were in the Indianapolis 500 car race on the oval track, with cables going around sheaves (pulleys) that fast, OMG, it does not seem like a viable concept to me. The main reason wind turbines have evolved as the simplest solution to transfer kinetic energy in the wind to electricity is that blades can go 6 times the windspeed, whereas the speeds of the mechanical stuff is slow enough to operate quietly and with longevity. These things gotta last 20 years or more. I’ve always loved ideas like this one, but as usual, it’s all those pesky details. Adding little turbines on the blades - yeah, sure, now you’re supporting more structure, more vibration, more complication, and you’ve gotta get that power from the track to the grid somehow… :slight_smile:


Hi @dougselsam: can you specify what pieces of the mechanical stuff: the generator (with its high-speed shaft) or other pieces?

Hi Pierre: I’m talking about the main bearings, holding the hub, as a start. If the blades are going 160 MPH, the speed of the bearings’ rotation is maybe 2 mph, or some such low speed. After than you’ve got controlled rotation that can be contained in heavy, steel enclosures and lubricated, where under such controlled conditions, you can use gearing to get back to a higher speed rotation for a generator.
Even then, that gearbox will still be a major wear component, perhaps the most likely component to fail. but it can be monitored for excessive wear, by analyzing the oil for metal particles, then rebuilt or replaced as needed (stanfard practice). Or it could have a ring generator using permanent magnets, or just a regular-size generator using permanent magnets, like the kind I build. What that other scenario involved was all the parts going the same speed as the “blade tips”, which would be noisy and probably wear out quickly. :slight_smile:

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Do you think that small wind turbines (1 kW, no gearbox) have a shorter lifespan (how many years?) than large ones (20 years), because of the higher speed of the bearings?

I’d say maybe, but the bearings tend to run somewhere near the same speed, at least within a certain range. It;s all just a matter of scale, but turbines large and small run in the same windspeed at the same TSR, so by scale, the bearing speeds should be similar. The 10 kW turbine currently powering this place is maybe 15 years old, still on the original bearings, which were greased a few times during those 15 years, but it is not unusual for them to last 20 years or more…
It belonged to a neighbor who got his replaced by the government cuz they were buying about 40 acres of his property for a big drainage basin to handle flooding for when we get big rains, and one of his guy wires went into the project area, so they were going to buy him a new, freestanding tower, but they bought him a whole new installation.
I have a little dual-rotor downwind “Firefly” in the front yard, with the driveshaft supported by just the bearings of the small, pivoting, spring-loaded-tilting, high-quality, permanent magnet motor/generator base, and it’s been running for about 12 years nonstop. 3-foot diameter, No sign of any problems. These are all sealed bearings, The ones that were lubricated were with a syringe.
If the bearings are high quality and appropriate for the machine, they should last many years. There is a saying though, that any machine that runs at under 800 RPM will last forever.
The thing that ruins a lot of bearings and rips turbines apart is turbulence and the wind changing directions, especially if the rotor only has two (2) blades. Two-bladed rotors really rip turbines apart pretty quickly. Unless you are running more than one rotor… :slight_smile:
I think longevity is a result of the bearing quality, lubrication if needed, and being the right bearings for the machine in question.

I did not see the article mention cables or speed? Where do you have that from?

I thought I read about a cable. Inside the track. To hold the blades and transmit the power to the teeny rectangular power takeoffs. 170 MPH is a typical speed for a wind turbine blade.

It might just as well be for example dynema rope used to transmit the power. And the typical tip speed of a rotating wind turbine does not have to be the speed this is designed to go. After all most of the blade in a normal rotating turbine is going slower than the tips.

But i do think just supporting the blades only in the middle is not going to make this concept stable. And whatever they would be using to transmit the power is going to ba making a god amount of frictional losses.

Sure, you can water down the performance by using a slower tip speed. Yeah, most of a turbine blade is going slower than optimal, but that doesn’t make it something to shoot for. Everyone in AWE (way back when they were considered “really smart people” and telling everyone how quickly they were going to make windmills obsolete) talked endlessly about “just the tips”. Why? The tips capture the MOST energy, using the LEAST material. It is apparent from the chord and spacing of the blades, they are chasing high speed operation. Anyway, so let’s say we’re talking half the speed. 85 MPH. Still pretty fast for a cable to go thru pulleys full time and not wear out. Dyneema? Sure, whatever suits your fancy. It’s a cable, whatever its made of.
No matter that this idea has been tried before either, or that this group has been failing at it for 7 years already. Yet the article gushes on about the low-cost power it “will” produce, and Gosh, funded by Bill Gates! Ever tried to talk to Bill Gates about advanced wind energy concepts? Well I have. And he doesn’t know anything about it, and he is the first to admit it. This is the problem with trying to talk wind energy with people who are not from the world of wind energy. What is obvious and doesn’t need to even be said in real wind circles becomes instead the main topic of conversation. Imagine a talk about cars where you had to explain what a piston is every day. OK now Tallak is going to say his Tesla doesn’t have any pistons, to which I will reply “It has brake pistons” (and due to regenerative braking, they will last forever.).

…and for good reason. Removing material makes sense in a cost cutting perspective.

Yes Tallak: Less material, less weight, of course it makes sense. The high speed of a blade is what makes this possible. Targeting slower travel (lower TSR) of the blades might make it quieter and less prone to wear, but would reduce these advantages of less material use and higher efficiency. As usual in the world of AWE, one more discussion that doesn’t need to be said if we were talking to an audience of knowledgeable wind energy people. :slight_smile:

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Hi Doug: are you referring to the “blades on a cable track” device, or to some AWES?

Hi Pierre: Yes, I was referring to this topic of blades on a cable track, responding to Storm Eagle and Tallak. :slight_smile:

An 18 minute overview of the planned steps ahead by the current CEO, and the promised benefits of the system.

I’m not having any luck getting the video to play - it just sits there. Didn’t try to “download” it, but don’t they all sound the same after a while? It reminds me of these diet gurus on Youtube: As long as you only listen to one of them, you are convinced. Until you listen to the next one, who says the opposite of the previous one…
I googled this project and came up with a report from an engineer “job applicant” who was told the system had problems and was pumped for ideas for solutions, then contacted with an message saying they were not going to hire him. He said he suspected they were using the “job interview” as a ruse to get free engineering opinions.
Anyway, as I’ve said more than once, I love this general design space, and the hopes to use less material, guy wires instead of freestanding towers, etc., however you have to realize, these are all old news. Modern wind turbines could also use guy wires, but they don’t. They no longer even use lattice towers. Why? They grew out of that phase long ago. This general idea has been tried before. This team has been at this for 7 years and, like all the rest, can’t power even a single home with their “prototype”. Why? Why don’t they tell you it’s running right now, at least helping to power a single home or business? What they are promoting is a “wish list”, not anything proven in the field. Anyone can play this “promoting a wish list” and say how many homes they “will” power “in the future” - ANYONE. Just like those supposed “fusion” people trying to see how many "investors (suckers) they can bilk. I’m sure these people have the best of intents, but probably not a lot of wind energy experience to draw upon.

There is a prototype, but there is no home.

Pierre: I’ve never seen a video tis difficult to watch. It took hours to get thru. Kept stopping, sometimes only letting a word or two thru, then silence for long periods. i kept it on all day and night, going out and getting things done while it “loaded” Maybe the Navy base is still on dialup, with a lot of traffic. So funny to see the “just the tips” theme once again, as though it were a new idea.

If you actually watched the hard-to-watch video, you would see there was a 40-foot office trailer next to it. They did show power output for a few seconds of operation. the power kept jumping from 2-3 kW to zero (0) and back up to 2-3 kW. Obviously something was wrong, and they couldn’t even show it running for more than a few seconds. I’m guessing it only ran for that few seconds, then something broke. Anyway, it could at least power the office trailer. Nah, they probably need reliable power for the office trailer - nevermind.

OK Pierre, let me as you a question. This is really just a stretched out Darrieus-type vertical-axis turbine. The blades can’t have any camber. They must be symmetrical. And optimally, hinged, for pitch to switch to match direction, but anyway, here’s the question:.

What if I came to you with a new idea for a Darrieus turbine: Instead of the blades rotating on a rotor, instead have them travel in a loop, on a track, pulling a steel cable in a circle, and the cable turned a teeny generator at 5000 RPM, would that sound like a good idea to you? Then of course I would have to cite a ridiculously low price for the power produced, and make sure not to make it seem too big - pick a smaller size so I could claim to use just pipes and guy wires. (Why not just put up a wall of small H-A turbines then?) Anyway, the vertical-axis turbine at least has the advantage of simplicity and revolving around a central support, without dragging any structural stuff around a track at the TSR of 4:1 = 120 MPH in a 30 MPH wind.

While I love the basic idea, these guys are just more typical know-nothing newbies making more of the classic mistakes in wind energy. It’s a “been there, done that” moment for wind energy. The Bill Gates of the world are relegated to having become bureaucrats, in over their heads, not understanding what is being said, and without the experience to know better. I’d love to see this work out, but I don’t expect it to. More dummies! :slight_smile:

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