10 Innovations in Wind Power

Starting with a Sail
Sails capture the energy of wind better than any other human design. laura a. watt/Flickr/Getty Images

One of the oldest ways to capture wind energy is the sail. Since the very first shipbuilders erected a mast, the simple sail has harnessed more of the kinetic energy in wind for human use than any other structure [source: Zaghdoud].

Sail as inspiration for a high-efficiency wind turbine, then, makes perfect sense, and Saphon Energy hopes to implement it in a sail-shaped turbine it calls Saphonian. Compared to a standard, bladed design, the more aerodynamic, lower-friction turbine can use up to twice the amount of energy in a given supply of wind, using it to create hydraulic pressure to drive a generator [source: Zaghdoud]. According to Saphon, its most recent prototype is more than twice as efficient as a typical windmill-style turbine [source: Zaghdoud].

As an interesting side note, Saphonian takes its name from Baal-Saphon, a wind deity in the religion of ancient Carthage. In particular, Baal-Saphon ruled the wind that would churn up the seas, and he was worshipped by Carthaginian sailors on their journeys [source: Saphon].

Next, at the blade's edge ...