|Tech startup, Limited company|
|Industry||Renewable energy, Wind Energy|
|Headquarters||Madrid & Avila, Spain|
|David Yáñez (co-Founder), Raul Martín (co-Founder)|
|Products||New kind of wind turbines, development of VIV oscillating wind power generators|
Vortex Bladeless Ltd. is a Spanish tech startup that is developing a type of wind turbine without blades nor gears or shafts. The Vortex's wind turbine is not actually a turbine since it does not rotate. It is based on the phenomenon of aeroelastic resonance, harnessing energy from the wind on the emission of Von Karman's vortexes. This process is called Vortex Shedding or Vortex Street Effect, and it is usually a problem for architecture and aeronautics. Thanks to this phenomenon the device is able to oscillate with a little movement which needs no lubricants.
This technology under development is more similar in features to solar power than to regular wind power, designed for self-production and distributed energy off the grid on low consumption systems.
Vortex Bladeless is a vortex induced vibration resonant wind generator, as compared to HAWT (horizontal axis wind turbines) and VAWT (vertical axis wind turbines) that work by rotation. Vortex's innovation comes from its unusual shape and way of harnessing energy by oscillation, where a fiberglass and carbon fiber mast oscillates in the wind taking advantage of the emission of Von Karman's vortexes when a fluid passes through a slender structure. At the bottom of the mast a carbon fiber rod moves an alternator that generates the electricity with no moving parts in contact. Since Vortex devices don't rotate they cannot be technically called "turbines".
This new technology seeks to overcome issues related to traditional wind turbines such as maintenance, amortization, noise, birds and environmental impact, logistics, and visual aspects. According to the company, Vortex generators have a small carbon footprint and use a low amount of raw materials compared to regular wind turbines of the same height. It is expected to have a low centre of gravity that allows for small foundation dimensions and a very low "wake turbulence", so several Vortex generators can be placed in the same area of a traditional turbine, increasing this way the low energy density that wind power has. However the goal of the company is not to be competitors of current wind industry but to offer a small-wind alternative for the end-consumer market and low-consumption systems, which is a market not really exploited by conventional wind power.
Vortex is a vertical, slender and cylinder-shaped device. It is composed of a fixed piece where the device is attached to a base anchoring, and a flexible part which, acting as a cantilever, interacts freely with the fluid in an oscillation movement. It could be divided into two main parts, mast and base. It has no gears or moving parts in contact, so it needs no oils nor lubricants as happens with regular wind turbines. The device's operation barely requires maintenance and operative costs. All these features take them closer to solar power's features and make it perfect for distributed energy. A linear alternator transforms mechanical energy into electricity. It counts with neodymium magnets and its stator is located inside of the mobile part of the device.
While converting mechanical energy into electricity, the alternator cushions the induced oscillation movement and simultaneously it is able to modify the natural oscillation frequency of the bladeless turbine's structure, therefore the lock-in range is increased while maintaining the resonance frequency in higher wind speeds. The company patented a mechanism called "tuning system" for this task, based in magnetic repulsion. Unlike regular wind turbines, this phenomenon is able to modify the apparent elasticity constant of the structure which depends on the oscillation amplitude, allowing it to grow as long as the wind speed grows. In spite of its simplicity, 6 families of registered patents protects the design and technology worldwide.
Bladeless wind devices
Vortex Bladeless is currently working in two future products that are expected to be commercially available for 2021. The specs goals for each model are:
- Vortex Nano: 1 meter high and 3W nominal power output. Designed mainly to bring energy to off-grid locations for low consumption systems, working along with solar panels. Stage: pre-production of a first beta series
- Vortex Tacoma: 2.75 meters high and 100W nominal power output. Designed mainly for small-scale residential/rural wind power self-generation, working along with solar panels. Stage: prototype, under development
- Vortex Atlantis/Grand: Projected but not under development yet. Between 9-13 meters high and around 1kW nominal power output. Designed for residential/rural self-generation and complimentary installation to solar PV over buildings/factories.
On Vortex technology, the amount of energy harnessed grows exponentially squared by height and cubed by wind speed. Therefore, bigger Vortex devices would be desirable since the production costs won't grow as much as power generation with height, giving as a result more profitable and efficient devices able to work with higher winds. However, because of their SME condition, the company is currently only working on these small-wind devices.
Story and biography
Vortex Bladeless Ltd. is a wind energy Spanish startup that was formalised in 2012 by David Yáñez and Raúl Martín, but it wasn't until 2014 when they officially founded the company and could be exclusively dedicated to the development of Vortex. The original idea emerged in 2002 when David Yáñez, the inventor, saw a video of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge disaster and led him to the idea that there is a lot of energy contained on the physical principle that collapsed the bridge, and it could be harnessed as a new way of generating energy from wind. His idea was kept in a drawer for years until 2012 when they started to look for investors and funding to start the project.
In early 2014, Vortex obtained public funding from CDTI (Center of Development of Industrial Technology) and started to collaborate with BSC (Barcelona SuperComputing Center) and their huge computational resources for the simulations on VIV (Vortex Induced Vibrations), magnetic fields interactions, and FEMM (Finite Element Method Magnetics) researches needed for their development. The proof of concept was validated and the story of Vortex began winning the South Summit Award 2014 in the category of Energy and Industry.
In 2015, the company started collaboration with representatives from MIT and Harvard University. In USA the project reached the company Altair Engineering who offered their advanced simulation software to Vortex for their investigation on this particular fluid dynamics concept. On the other hand, NGOs and other environmental entities like Birdlife have shown great interest in this solution and have offered their collaboration too, since Vortex may have a lower impact on nature and birds in the case of bigger devices are built in the future. Thanks to all the support from these public administration and research centers, in 2015 the company launched in June a successful crowdfunding campaign to fund the first supplying agreements and hiring the engineers needed to take the project to the next level.
In late 2016 and after validating the technology on computational simulations and tech demonstrators, the company reached the prototype stage with a geometry that can harness a nice amount of energy from the wind with this principle. On this stage Vortex was able to apply for funding from the Horizon 2020 for research and innovation programme of the European Commission. Being the greatest funding that the company had, Vortex built a big wind tunnel for testing their turbines (the tallest wind tunnel in Spain) and started the development of their patented concept of an oscillating alternator with tuning system. On this phase, the company won the "Seal of Excellence" of the H2020 programme.
All along 2017, the company kept developing their alternator and tuning system. Since this technology is considered as new in many aspects intervening (geometry, movement, energy conversion system), it has been a harder development than the company expected. The collaboration on this stage of the Microgravity Institute of the Technical University of Madrid and the European University of Madrid, alongside CDTI, Altair, Birdlife and BSC were the key to obtain a feasible technology that can harness energy from the wind on this particular way. In this year the company obtained the "Innovation SME" seal of the Spanish government.
In 2018 the company started to plan the industrialisation of their aerogenerators. On this point the company faced many problems due to the lack of feasible industrial processes to mass-produce some of the pieces that use Vortex technology. The geometry and the materials were almost definitive on this stage so the company started a certification process for their current prototypes and obtained the ISO 9001. This certification is a regular process for every wind turbine in the European and American market but the normative is written for blades based turbines or rotating turbines, so the normative may need to be rewritten in order to certify Vortex devices as wind generators.
The goals of the company for the future are to obtain the certification needed to start selling, to set up a feasible method of production and logistics of shipping so they can start commercializing first Vortex turbines for 2020.
Awards & strategic partners
Most relevant strategic partners for Vortex Bladeless Ltd. are the EASME, the CDTI, Altair Engineering and the Council of Castilla y León in Spain. The awards won by the company or their team are all related to energy, innovation and entrepreneurship, listed by date:
- 2017 – Innovation SME of the Spanish Government
- 2016 – EU's SME instrument Seal of Excellence
- 2016 – “Renovable del Año 2016“ at 10th ‘Abulenses’ phase of Energy
- 2014 – The South Summit Award (category of energy and industry)
- 2014 – “Caja de Ingenieros” Entrepreneurs Award
- 2012 – “Fondo de Emprendedores” Repsol Foundation Award
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- Huffington Post (2016-05-25). "These Jiggling Bladeless Turbines Are A Breath Of Fresh Air". https://www.huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2018-12-13. External link in
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- Altair. "Vortex Bladeless Wind Energy Project Team Receives Altair CAE Suite Donation". www.prnewswire.com. Retrieved 2016-11-13.
- "Smart sustainability out of Spain". A Magazine. 2015-10-02. Retrieved 2016-11-13.
- "Shape Project Vortex Bladeless: Parallel multi-code coupling" (PDF). BSC. 2015-10-02. Retrieved 2016-11-13.
- "Conoce mejor a dos de los ganadores: Proyecto Vortex - repsol.com". www.repsol.com. Retrieved 2016-11-13.
- Tucker, Bill. "Wind Power Without The Mills". Forbes. Retrieved 2016-11-13.
- "Three blades or none?". Birdlife (in Spanish). Retrieved 2017-10-13.
- "Vortex Bladeless: a wind generator without blades". Indiegogo (in Spanish). Retrieved 2016-11-13.
- Horizon 2020 Agreement (2016-03-12). "Horizon 2020". Retrieved 2018-12-11.
- EASME (2016-02-02). "Bladeless wind turbines to save energy and protect bird populations". ec.europa.eu. Retrieved 2018-12-11.
- "News and reviews". Retrieved 2018-12-11.
- "Vortex partners and awards". Vortex Bladeless. 2018-07-10. Retrieved 2018-12-11.
- "Vortex bladeless wind energy project team receives Altair CAE suite donation". Diario La Razón. 2016 – via ProQuest.
- "El aerogenerador sin aspas de Vortex Bladeless, Premio Renovable del Año". Ingenieros. Retrieved 2016-11-17.