10 Innovations in Wind Power

Starting with the Tesla Engine
Nikola Tesla -- pictured here in statue form in his native village of Smiljan, Croatia -- is the jumping point for one new wind design. HRVOJE POLAN/AFP/Getty Images

Inspired by an engine design patented by inventor Nikola Tesla in 1913, a company named Solar Aero has designed a wind turbine with no blades, a small footprint and, according to the designers, low enough maintenance costs to bring the price of its electricity down to coal-fired rates [source: Zyga].

The Fuller turbine uses thin metal disks to turn a generator. The airfoil-style disks are closely spaced and angled such that when wind flows through the unit, they spin, regardless of the direction or strength of the wind. Because the number of disks can be increased or decreased to achieve different power outputs and sizes, the Fuller turbine can be easily adapted to accommodate a wide range of locations.

Easy access to the disk-and-generator setup, along with reduced height requirements since blade clearance is not a factor, mean lower maintenance costs, according to Solar Aero. The removal of blade clearance from the equation also means the units can be placed closer together, so 20 Fuller turbines would require less land than standard, bladed machines [source: Zyga].

Like many other innovations on this list, the Fuller turbine takes birds into account: The entire moving system is screened in.

Next, another engine acts as muse.