Published Dec-29-09

A new form of wind turbine that’s efficient and unobtrusive and will allow millions of people to generate electricity cheaply. RidgeBlade took first prize at a major European open innovation contest.

Dean Gregory, United Kingdom

The Story:

RidgeBlade The annual Postcode Lottery Green Challenge is a major open innovation competition held in the Netherlands to encourage the creation of green products and services. It is open to individual inventors and companies from around the world who are tasked with coming up with ideas that should directly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The open innovation winners not only receive a huge cash reward, but the contest also provides ongoing support to implement their ideas.

Open Innovation is a Catalyst for Ideas

The Green Challenge demonstrates how an open innovation contest can be a great catalyst for bringing out ideas from inventors from different countries as it taps into their creativity, passion, and enthusiasm.

The RidgeBlade was designed by Dean Gregory and the Power Collective, a UK-based company that develops practical and environmentally sympathetic and sustainable energy solutions. It is a low-cost rooftop turbine that captures wind power in low-wind conditions, and unlike the “propeller on a stick” turbines it’s easy on the eye - a fact that should address local authority planning rules which have dealt a blow to many a previous wind turbine invention. Gregory’s system houses small cylindrical turbines positioned horizontally along the apex of a roof.

Ensuring that new green products do not present an eye sore is a key part of the environmental competition. The RidgeBlade turbine will be color-matched to any roof and it only adds 20-30 cm to its height. In addition, it can be integrated into the roofs of new-build houses.

Wind Speed Research

The idea for RidgeBlade was borne out of research into urban wind speeds. The Power Collective measured wind speeds in and around roofs and discovered that just above the ridge line, at the point of the apex, the wind travels three times faster than the ambient wind speed. This is similar to what happens with planes when the wind has to travel faster to get over wings.

The faster ridge line wind speed means that there is nine times more energy available, and so a turbine does not need to be large. And even on fairly still days the system should be able to generate electricity.

A RidgeBlade of 6.5 m long is optimized for wind speeds of between 7 kph and 60 kph (the average wind speed in the UK is 20 kph) and will generate 20 kilowatt hours which should cover an average home’s daily needs. Any electricity that is not used goes back into the grid which utility companies will pay for.

To address concerns that wind turbines are noise pollutants that irritate neighbors the Power Collective invested considerable research and development time into creating ways of making the unit quiet and vibration free. In fact much of their patent deals with these issues.

Full Production

The prize money for the open innovation competition means that the Power Collective can concentrate on bringing their invention to market. They hope to be in full production mode by the end of 2010.

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