The $1m electric asparagus  generator, hope or nope?

This turbine free wind generator sounded awesome, but will it work? Let’s play “Hope” or “Nope.” 

Remember the fairly recent movie Ant Man? I refused to see it because it defied the laws of physics in an annoying way. Something very small that hits you fast doesn’t knock your whole body across the room as shown in the Ant Man trailer; it makes a hole in you, splats on you and stings, or bounces off. I have that same feeling with this bladeless windmill, making the motions it does and supposedly generating meaningful energy. 

VortexBladeless has collected over a million dollars and Ant Man has pulled in over $500 million. 

The bladeless windmill is all over the net, Forbes, the Guardian, even Wired has a write up. 

How could I, not even an expert in that field, see something they didn’t? For the sake of the world, I hope to not be one of its smartest humans, but I did just beat my chess computer on Grand Master 2600 ELO setting this morning before breakfast… then again, that was on a puzzle specially designed to let humans beat chess computers.

Check out the VortexBladeless device:

Here’s what Wired, May 15, 2015 said:

The founders claim their Vortex Mini, which stands at around 41 feet tall, can capture up to 40 percent of the wind’s power during ideal conditions (this is when the wind is blowing at around 26 miles per hour) 

… Vortex Bladeless says its turbine would cost around 51 percent less than a traditional turbine whose major costs come from the blades and support system. Plus, Suriol says, it’s pretty cool-looking. “It looks like asparagus,” he says. “It’s much more natural.”
The company has already raised $1 million from private capital and government funding in Spain, and they have plans to close a round in the United States soon. There’s enough interest, Suriol says, that he fields upward of 200 emails a day from people inquiring about the turbine. Of course, the technology still has a ways to go. They’re hoping to have their first product, a 9-foot, 100-watt turbine that will be used in developing countries, ready before the end of the year. The Mini, it’s 41-foot counterpart, will be ready in a year.

Link

Test 1: Evidence of Power Generation?

Nope.

Anyone can claim anything. Today I heard a claim that a person was born with 360 psychic vision and that this same person, who never spoke Russian, once unknowingly spoke fluent Russian for a whole conversation.

I don’t understand it, and no one has seen it make electricity, but they have a stick that waves around in the wind and some fancy formulas“, is not a good basis for investment.

Here’s another bladeless wind power system, again with no reason to think it would produce electricity.

There are many more, some with claims that free energy inventions are actively suppressed. When investigating power generation claims, the first question should be, where do we find the specs/data/evidence?

Test 2: Fits with known proven technology?

Nope.

Wind power has been studied in great detail. Engineers have determined what works best to generate meaningful amounts of power. 

 A modern horizontal-axis, triblade wind turbine would generate the most electricity. Claims of superior performance by alternate technologies accompanied by requests for investment should be viewed extremely skeptically. … 

Test 3: Makes outrageous claims of efficiency?

Vortex Bladeless doesn’t claim to do better than a modern triblade wind turbine.

Hope.

Maximum potential generation from a volume of wind is determined by Betz’ Law (alternately known as Betz’ Limit). Betz calculated that the maximum power that could be gained from the wind was 59.3% of its total energy.

Not to say a new idea couldn’t come along that does something revolutionary, but air  still behaves like air. It flows. According to the Betz Limit, if you take too much energy, the air stops flowing, so as you take more you decrease the flow and the available energy. That’s a big reason why today’s windmills are the way they are and it is why many other wind power designs simply won’t work. Too much surface area just stops the flow of the wind. 



If anyone has a design to the contrary, bring it on. To have your design taken seriously would take proof in the form of repeatable numerical measurements verified by a knowledgeable and objective third party.  If your design breaks the Betz limit, and that is independently verified, you’ll be famous. 

We could reasonably assume that all of the above designs stop air flow more than a triblade turbine. 

The last design above does what all the others, including the million dollar asparagus, should be doing; they show the device’s amount of power generated. In this experiment, it hits 5.13 DCV, less than a 9-volt (9 DCV) battery. We’d assume there was much more power used by the air cannon turning their generator. Getting a little bit of electricity out, for a lot of electricity put in is not difficult. 

Getting back to the vortex veggie, they are only claiming 40% energy capture from wind using a 41 ft tall round air surface (of what diameter?) which will generate 4 kW.

Test 4: Specific power generation claim seems reasonable?

Nope

First, generating 4 kilowatts of power requires a force little over 2,950 foot-pounds-force per second. If you want to know how much electricity something could generate with electromagnets, figure out how much physical weight it could move. One way to look at 4 kW is that it’s a continual 71 lbs of force at the tip of a 41 foot pole. 

When is the last time a 26 mph wind pushed anything with 71lbs of force?

Benefit of Doubt Card #1

Vortex Bladeless claimed to use the power of shedding vortices. Does making little whirlwinds give you extra push power? 

Here’s a patent for a vortex shedding wind power generator

The phenomenon of vortex shedding involves the formation of alternating vortices which form behind a bluff body when it is placed in fluid flow. An oscillating resultant lift force acts on the body as these vortices are shed. Eventually, if the frequency of vortex shedding matches the resonance frequency of the structure, the structure will begin to resonate and the structure’s movement can become self-sustaining.  

… The intensity of these vortices and resulting lift force are directly related to the cross-sectional shape and size of the bluff body. … It is possible to predict the frequency at which these vortices will occur … (See Equation 1, below).

Link

Would you get a sustained, or even a brief 71 lbs of force? 

Think about it. In a 26 mph wind, could a 71 lb kid keep a 41 foot circular sail pole completely from moving at one end using his full weight? 

For a DYI wind tunnel test, build a sail shaped like theirs, put it in the back of a pickup truck, drive 26 mph on a straight bump free road with a 71 lb weight attached to the bottom of the sail. Does the sail lift the weight? If so, congratulations, you may have the basis of a 4 kWatt generator… but there are other factors such as energy lost in conversion, so to be more realistic, give yourself a 10% margin and make it a 78lb weight.

Another vortex shedding device had a 0 to 3 watt power generation in wind from 2 to 20+ mph wind using a 30″ blade. 

Vortex shedding is another aerodynamic phenomenon contributing to the oscillations of the beam…  “At first, we started scaling the system up to see how we could compete with micro wind turbines, and we came up to the size of a 30-inch-length Windbeam which was generating around 3 watts or so, which isn’t a tremendous amount of power,” said Thomas Olsen, president and founder of Zephyr Energy Corporation.

Link

If a 30 inch blade generates 3 watts using the power of vortex shedding, would a 492 inch blade generate 4,000 watts? Seems like it would be more on the order of 49.9 watts. 

Test 5: Evidence that vortex shedding creates the forces needed?

Nope.

Test 6: Is it patented?

This test is not one I use. Please realize that something being patented does not mean it has been verified to work.

US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) auditors believe that as many as 10% of all issued patents are invalid, a high percent of those due to the fact the invention does not work.

Link

When someone has something patented it means they have enough money to patent it, and no one else has (it’s new), it seems useful, is non-obvious, and is a process, machine, article of manufacture, and/or composition of matter. That’s it. 

Overall, here’s the situation with the Vortex bladeless generator.

The Vortex is constructed with no gears, bolts, or mechanically moving parts, which makes the Vortex cheaper to manufacture and maintain. Based on field testing, the Mini Vortex (standing at 40 feet tall) ultimately captures 30 percent less than conventional wind turbines, but that shortcoming is compensated by the fact that you can put double the Vortex turbines into the same space as a propeller turbine.

Link

Is the company making logical statements?

Nope

If the above web site is accurate as to their claims, the claims are not logical. Perhaps there are just Spanish to English translation errors.

Which would you buy right now on Amazon?

1) Product A for $1 that gives you 100 energies 

Or

2) Two of Product B for $1 that they claim will give you a total of 70 energies?

Product B doesn’t kill birds and there is no evidence that it works. 

Another statement in a video was that the cost could be 50 percent less, or even 45 percent less. Nutty!


A bigger number is better, in costing less, than a smaller number. It could be that just the translation is bad. Instead of “or even” perhaps he said “or at least” 47 percent less.

I do wish them luck. I hope they prove me wrong, but they won’t.

If you catch any errors in what I’ve said, leave a comment.

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