FloDesign-Ogin Some Brief Comments

By Paul Gipe

The following is an excerpt from my forthcoming book, Wind Energy for the Rest of Us. It is provided here in the public interest because of recent controversy surrounding FloDesign and Ogin.

Ogin was formerly known as FloDesign, a spinoff from the aerospace community surrounding the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Their twist on DAWT design was the use of “mixer-ejector” technology originally developed for jet engines (see the accompanying photo of the FloDesign DAWT by Ewan O’Sullivan).

With eerie parallels to Vortec, FloDesign used all the same superlatives to describe their take on an old concept. In 2008, FloDesign was all over the tech press with claims that their turbine would produce 3 to 4 times more energy from the wind than  conventional turbines. Even DOE’s Arpa (Advanced Research Projects Agency) was hyping the device that they had invested $8 million in as a “breakthrough”. DOE said FloDesign’s “innovative” wind turbine “could deliver 300% more power than existing wind turbines of the same rotor diameter by extracting more energy over a larger area.” Elsewhere, FloDesign was telling the media they could do all this for 30% less cost. . .

. . . No where in this barrage of ballyhoo were there any real numbers on performance. They had none. It was all flash. It was all projections. They had only a model in a wind tunnel and computer simulations to spin their story to the media. They didn’t erect a prototype on Deer Island in Boston Harbor until years later.

Things changed dramatically in late 2013. By then FloDesign/Ogin had raised a total of $80 million from big-name venture capitalists and pension funds with well-honed political connections to former Vice President Al Gore. Suddenly FloDesign was tight lipped. No one was talking except to say they planned to install a cluster of turbines in California’s Altamont Pass in 2014. . .

. . . What we do know is that the turbine was still rated at 100 kW and that the shroud diameter was likely 19.5 meters (64 feet) in diameter by parsing the passages on their web site. From that limited data, it appears that the specific capacity or load on the frontal area of the FloDeisgn/Ogin turbine is about 340 W/m². Conventional wind turbines are rated to produce from 200 W/m² to 400 W/m² of their rotor swept area, though there have been models over the decades with even higher and lower rotor loadings.


In other words, FloDesign/Ogin’s much hyped turbine offers no advantage in specific capacity over conventional wind turbines despite all the rhetoric to the contrary. If they can’t build, install, and operate this turbine for a fraction of the cost of conventional turbines, there’s simply no point in doing it. The real world doesn’t run on hype and hustle. Business and industry consume real kilowatt-hours of electricity. Utilities and independent power producers generate and sell real electricity. If FloDesign/Ogin can’t deliver real kilowatt-hours reliably, then the Kiwis and all the other investors will have to kiss their money goodbye—again.