Barnard was as far into overly-pessimistic skepticism as the thousands of noncomprehending true-believer idiots were into gullible naivete that clearly-unworkable ideas were “the answer”.
On the one hand, Barnard made many valid points, but on the other hand, he was also not a source of any positive vision. He was good at being a skeptic, but that doesn’t mean his skepticism, however valid, is the final answer.
Back during the “Barnard” time, we had the likes of Magenn being endlessly promoted, based on sexy renderings extracting millions of dollars from uninformed investors, to build a very expensive rotating blimp capable of making only some tiny amount of power. It was silly. Childish. And yet you’d read article after article from the highest sources like, I wanna say even NASA, using the illustrations of Magenn to announce or promote the very concept of AWE. Magenn - poster-child of ignorance, endlessly promoted.
Experienced wind people, especially those like me who had spent the previous several years debunking one “breakthrough” wind turbine design after another, could easily identify the same typical beginner mistakes being made in the air, that we had had so much good-natured fun debunking, on the ground or towers. I say “on the ground” because less-informed “innovators” were likely to just place their “wind energy” contraption at ground level. This in the face of years of long discussions mathematically analyzing the significantly greater power output from even slightly taller towers.
The characteristics newbies were scolded over included but were not limited to:
- drag-based machines with surfaces “pushed” downwind;
- machines that had to use power to return surfaces to an upwind position;
- vertical-axis (cross-axis) machines;
- pulsating, flapping, or reciprocating machines;
- soft cloth (fabric, textile) energy harvesting surfaces, especially single-surface;
- shrouds and funnels, even to the point of buildings at ground level, containing tubes with upwind entry points and crosswind exit points;
Wind Energy, in close to its current form, (3- and 4-blade low-solidity “crosswind” rotors featuring standard airfoils) has been around for 1000 years!
For centuries the largest source of non-animal power in Europe.
By the time DaVinci drew his now-famous sketches of an unworkable “helicopter” (with a helical single-surface 100%+ high-solidity rotor), wind turbines with low-solidity rotors featuring two-surface, high-speed, shaped-airfoil blades had been powering Europe for 500 years.
Yet DaVinci, celebrated today as “a genius”, apparently never made the association that a bird’s wing, and a wind turbine blade, are two versions of the same phenomenon, both featuring the same airfoil shape.
DaVinci probably walked right by working windmills on his way to work, never noticing they amounted to sideways flying machines - exactly what he was trying to “invent”, likely producing the very flour he ate for breakfast that day.
And for the next 400 years, including the second half of the 1800’s when many people were actively engaged in trying to fly, STILL nobody noticed the dual-surface (now-standard) airfoil shape, which at that point was approaching 1000 years of powering Europe’s mills and pumps.
There were universities, studying the sciences, but nobody understood that generalized concepts such as “energy” or “aerodynamics” even existed! (Despite having been powered by “energy” provided by “aerodynamics”, nobody made the connection between 1000-year-old, ubiquitous wind turbine technology, and flight.)
The universities of the time, despite centuries of power from rotating aerodynamic airfoils, apparently had no “aerodynamics department”. Really, in retrospect, the level of ignorance of being powered by high-speed airfoils obviously similar to birds’ wings for hundreds of years, and not associating these airfoils with flight, is alarming, and, really, almost unbelievable.
Next, “The Wright Brothers” similarly failed to notice the upper-and-lower-surface “standard-airfoil-shape” of birds’ wings and wind turbine blades, instead starting from scratch, building wind tunnels to “test” simple flat and curved two-dimensional surfaces, which they eventually got to just barely work, once they realized camber played an important role, but finally, within a few short years, they had adopted the hard, upper-and-lower-surface airfoils previously ignored for 500 years, powered by propellers using similar airfoils, almost identical to 1000-year-old wind turbine rotors except for being arranged to add power to a windflow, instead of extracting power.
And after all those centuries of ignorance, centuries of being powered by high-speed standard-shaped, high-speed airfoils, never realizing the keys to flight were old news, staring them in the face the whole time, I’ve never heard anyone, to this day, even acknowledge it! They talk of the Wright Brothers being “geniuses” for building a wind tunnel for testing single-surfaces for lift, but never mention it was well-known 1000-year-old technology they finally arrived at after another decade or two.
So that summarizes how blind we humans can be. Yet one cannot ignore the levels of extreme understanding we humans are capable of. It’s as though we are simultaneously unbelievably stupid and unbelievably smart at the same time! After all, how many times do we suddenly realize something simple and obvious was staring us in the face until one day we suddenly see the simple truth about it? Are we suddenly “smart” when we finally notice some basic concept we’ve been using for 1000 years, but before that we were “stupid”?
OK that’s the backdrop I see when discussing AWE. That’s why I’ve said from the beginning when people compare AWE to the Wright Brothers , “You’re looking at the bloopers, with the bicycle-horn sound”, referring to the old-time-movies with the hopping, pumping, pulsating parasol, and the accidentally-folding, multi-stacked-wing wannabe-airplane we always see whenever we watch TV coverage of the dawn of powered flight.
So I’m optimistic about AWE but it seems we humans are prone to millions of people not seeing obvious answers for centuries on end, even when they are staring us in the face the whole time.
If and when AWE takes hold, we will likely be able to look back and see how ignorant and short-sighted we must have been to not see the simple answer that will have been staring us the face the whole time, again.
Remember this: wind is invisible so people can make up in their minds what they “think” the wind should do, but it does what it does.
I will end this post with the following question:
Years ago I pointed out that something like a billion dollars had been spent on AWE R&D. Can anyone identify a billion dollars worth of results?