10 Innovations in Wind Power

Floating It
Current offshore wind turbines are secured to the seafloor; in the future, the turbines may be held in place by an anchor. Ulrich Baumgarten/Getty Images

Wind-power collaborative WindPlus is also working on the anchoring issue. In this case, though, the turbine keeps its horizontal axis, like you see on most land-based structures; the big development here is a support system called WindFloat.

WindFloat is a semi-submersible platform held in place by a drag-embedment anchor. In drag embedment, there's no construction at the seafloor. Instead, an anchor is dragged along the floor until it embeds itself at the desired depth. The drag-anchored platform supports an offshore turbine like the ones commonly in use now. WindFloat can potentially allow the affordable installation of larger turbines than those producing offshore power now.

This floating-turbine design allows not only for lower installation costs but also lower assembly costs, since the entire setup, both platform and turbine, can be assembled on land. Current technology relies on assembly at sea, which involves far more unstable and logistically complex conditions [source: Macguire]. WindFloats are already in use off the coast of Portugal, and, as of December 2012, plans for installation off the coast of Oregon are moving forward [source: Recharge].

That Oregon project has been green-lighted in part by new development grants from both the European Union and the United States [source: Recharge]. New government funding for wind power, particularly the offshore variety, issued at the end of 2012 could mean big leaps in development. Hopes are that with the money to perfect design and implement more real-world testing, innovations like these could dramatically increase the viability of wind as a significant source of affordable, clean energy.

Author's Note: 10 Innovations in Wind Power

There are countless innovative minds working to improve the performance of wind turbines, but here, I had to choose 10. There are so many out there, some heavy on adjustments for mechanical efficiency, others concentrating on eliminating "eyesore" issues and environmental damage, and many addressing both. I chose these particular innovations because I found them to be especially unique or surprising, or their bold claims have actually been borne out in field testing.

Each listed innovation, as well, may turn up in the work of more companies than I was able to include here. It's amazing how many inventors hit the same mark.

Related Articles


  • Alternative Energy. "Airborne Wind Turbines?" June 16, 2010. (Dec. 26, 2012) http://www.alternative-energy-news.info/airborne-wind-turbines/
  • Alternative Energy. "Breakthrough in Small Wind Technology." Nov. 19, 2008. (Dec. 26, 2012) http://www.alternative-energy-news.info/breakthrough-small-wind-technology/
  • Alternative Energy. "Elastic Edges for Wind Turbine Blades." March 21, 2009. (Dec. 26, 2012) http://www.alternative-energy-news.info/elastic-edges-for-wind-turbine-blades/
  • Bullis, Kevin. "A Design for Cheaper Wind Power." MIT Technology Review. Dec. 1, 2008. (Jan. 4, 2013) http://www.technologyreview.com/news/411274/a-design-for-cheaper-wind-power/
  • Danigelis, Alyssa. "Wind Power Without the Blades: Big Pics." Discovery News. (Dec. 26, 2012.) http://news.discovery.com/tech/wind-power-without-the-blades.html
  • Fecht, Sarah. "8 Ways Magnetic Levitation Could Shape the Future." Popular Mechanics. (Dec. 26, 2012) http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/engineering/extreme-machines/8-ways-magnetic-levitation-could-shape-the-future#slide-1
  • Gatto, Katie. "Vertiwind: Floating wind turbine project launched." Phys.org. Feb. 7, 2011. (Dec. 26, 2012) http://phys.org/news/2011-02-vertiwind-turbine.html#nRlv
  • Hurdle, Jon. "Energy Dept. to Underwrite 7 Wind Projects." The New York Times. Dec. 12, 2012. (Dec. 26, 2012) http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/12/energy-dept-to-underwrite-7-wind-projects/?ref=windpower
  • Katru Eco-Inventions. http://www.katru.com.au/
  • LaMonica, Martin. "FloDesign's jet engine-inspired wind turbine wins prizes." CNET. May 15, 2008. (Dec. 26, 2012) http://news.cnet.com/8301-11128_3-9945005-54.html
  • Macguire, Eoghan. "Floating turbine buoys offshore wind potential." CNN. June 28, 2012. (Dec. 26, 2012) http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/28/world/windplus-floating-wind-turbine/index.html
  • NuEnergy Technologies. "MagLev Wind Turbine." (Jan. 4, 2013) http://www.nuenergytech.com/product-development/maglev-wind-turbine/
  • Off Grid Technologies. "City of Evanston – Off Shore Wind Project (RFI)." (Jan. 4, 2013) http://www.cityofevanston.org/assets/OGT%20Evanston%20RFI.pdf
  • Recharge. "Principle Power lands $43m funding double for WindFloat." Dec. 14, 2012. (Jan. 2, 2013) http://www.rechargenews.com/energy/wind/article329608.ece
  • Snieckus, Darius. "Deep-water vertical-axis wind turbine gets last dry run." Recharge. Jan. 6, 2012. (Jan. 2, 2013) http://www.rechargenews.com/business_area/innovation/article296513.ece
  • Vestas. "Vestas, EDP and WindPlus partners inaugurate the first offshore turbine installed on the WindFloat floating foundation." June 19, 2012. (Jan. 2, 2013) http://www.vestas.com/Default.aspx?ID=10332&action=3&NewsID=3107
  • Watt Now. "FloDesign Wind Turbine. There's change in the wind." March 7, 2012. (Jan. 4, 3013) http://wattnow.org/1891/flodesign-wind-turbine-theres-change-in-the-wind
  • Wind Power Intelligence. "FRANCE: Testing for 2MW Vertiwind floating offshore turbine to begin." Jan. 1, 2013. (Jan. 2, 2013) http://www.windpowerintelligence.com/article/GVj9cQ3mmA/2013/01/01/france_testing_for_2mw_vertiwind_floating_offshore_turbine_t/
  • Yirka, Bob. "New omni-directional wind turbine can capture wind energy on building rooftops." Phys.org. May 16, 2011. (Dec. 26, 2012) http://phys.org/news/2011-05-omni-directional-turbine-capture-energy-rooftops.html
  • Zaghdoud, Nébil. "Sail-inspired turbine promises cheaper wind energy." Nov. 5, 2012. (Dec. 26, 2012) http://www.scidev.net/en/middle-east-and-north-africa/news/sail-inspired-turbine-promises-cheaper-wind-energy.html
  • Zyga, Lisa. "Bladeless wind turbine inspired by Tesla." Phys.org. May 7, 2010. (Dec. 26, 2012) http://phys.org/news192426996.html


The Deadly Problem of Coal Ash

The Deadly Problem of Coal Ash

Disposing and storing coal ash is tricky, and it takes one small trigger to cause a catastrophe. HowStuffWork looks at coal ash and the environment.