Dueling Wind Collectors

Nobel Laureate Alan Heeger, a UCSB professor of physics, has joined the board of directors of Carpinteria-based Clipper Windpower, the company announced on 10/18. Heeger was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2000; one of his primary fields of study is the development of highly conductive polymers for use as solar power collectors.

It is merely the latest feather in the cap of the Carpinteria-based wind turbine manufacturer, which two weeks previously announced that it would build the world’s largest and most powerful wind turbine off of the English coast near Blythe. That behemoth, dubbed the Britannia Project, is expected to stand 400 feet tall, with 250 foot-long blades, and to be capable of generating 7.5 megawatts of electricity. According to Clipper CEO James Dehlsen, the company is teaming with One NorthEast Regional Development Agency in England to fund and develop the Britannia Project, which will be manufactured in England, with engineering to be carried out in Carpinteria and Blythe. In 2006, Clipper signed a deal with British Petroleum for 2,250 megawatts worth of turbines. At the end of September, it delivered ten dozen of its 2.5 megawatt Liberty turbines, fulfilling 300 megawatts of that contract. The company also went public for the first time in September, on the London Stock Exchange’s Alternative Investment Market. However, shares offered on the British exchange cannot be sold to residents of the US.

Meanwhile, the W2 Energy Development Corporation, a Santa Barbara-based startup with a rival technology to the turbine, has the “proof of concept” prototype for its WindWing and is in the first round of capital development. Inventor Gene R. Kelly, who is retired from Human Factor Engineering in Goleta, claims that the WindWing is 90 to 95 percent efficient, meaning that it captures almost all of the wind that blows through it. According to Kelly, turbines capture quite a bit less than half of that wind. Turbines make efficiency gains primarily in terms of how much power a single structure can generate, he said, neglecting to take into account the percentage of wind that blows through the blades unused–including the amount of downtime when the blades don’t turn because the wind isn’t strong enough–or the large amount of land or sea that the turbines occupy. (Clipper Windpower did not return calls asking for comment on this claim.) W2 Energy Development Corporation is in the midst of creating a pre-production prototype of the WindWing, which resembles oscillating airplane wings. The pre-production prototype is meant to prove the concepts behind the invention, and make the data available to manufacturers.


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