I bristled when Vaughn Nelson contacted me for help with his new book Innovative Wind Turbines. Not that it was Vaughn. He’s my mentor and the founder of West Texas A&M University’s Alternative Energy Institute (AEI). Vaughn first taught me the importance of swept area and how to quickly cut through the hype that often surrounds new wind turbines. He’s the physicist I turn to when I have a wind question. And no it wasn’t that he was asking for some photos I’d taken decades ago of obscure wind turbines. It was simply the word “innovative.”
We Americans have a penchant for the word “innovative.” Our love affair with all things innovative reminds me of a similar obsession with the word efficiency. We place these words–and those who bandy them about–on a pedestal.
And often this is not warranted.
In my four decades experience with wind energy when someone uses the word “innovative” to describe their wind turbine, I head for the hills as fast as I can. Otherwise I will once again fall down the time-consuming rabbit hole debunking wild claims about a new design.
Nearly always the design is not new at all. It may be new to the designer–who hasn’t done enough homework–or new to the unwashed masses who swallowed the promoters hype on the internet–but it’s not new to those of us who work with the wind for a living.
Looking back on it after the book was published I realized Vaughn has provided a valuable service by placing a slew of these oddball designs within the covers of his slim 150-page book. If you think someone has come up with a brand-spanking new idea, you just check Vaughn’s book first to see if it’s been done before.
Vaughn’s little book could save those of us in the field of wind energy a lot of trouble. When a reporter or inventor calls we can simply point them to Vaughn’s book and tell them to “look it up” and go about our business.
So in the end I was glad to contribute a photo or two to the endeavor.
Vaughn found some doozies too. I’ve seen a lot of crackpot inventions, but apparently there’s a lot I haven’t seen. He ran a test site for small wind turbines at AEI in Canyon, Texas. Inventors would seek him out. As a result, he got a first hand look at some of these before they flew apart or the inventor flew the coop.
Anyone thinking of investing in a new wind turbine should see this book first. And any government agency willing to dole out public money to some “innovative” inventor should have a copy of Vaughn’s book on their desk.
It should go without saying that all the designs in Vaughn’s book are not in commercial use today. They all failed with one exception: the Vertical-Axis Wind Turbines in Nashtifan, Iran that have been in continuous use for centuries.
Taylor & Francis (CRC’s parent) offers a 30-page “preview” download to see the introductory material and the first chapter.
Note: This is another book in a series that’s been sent my way to review or otherwise comment on. I no longer have the time or the inclination to read every book that’s sent over my figurative transom. These are all by highly valued colleagues or friends, the topics important, or the point of view well worth getting out to a broader audience. I am remiss in not getting to them in a timely manner. In lieu of just letting them gather dust, I am posting their bibliographic details and a comment or two.
Nelson, Vaughn. Innovative Wind Turbines: An Illustrated Guidebook. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, 2019. 156 pages. ISBN: 9781003010883 (ebook), ISBN-13: 978-0-367-81931-6 (cloth). No country of origin stated.
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Chapter 1 Introduction
1.1 Drag Device
1.2 Lift Device
1.3 Innovative Systems
1.4 Historical Innovative Systems
1.5 United States Innovative Program
Chapter 2 Horizontal Axis Wind Turbines
2.1 One Blade
2.2 Multiple Blades
2.4 Multiple Rotors
2.5 Multiple Turbines
Chapter 3 Ducted Wind Turbines
3.1 Venturi Wind Turbines
Chapter 4 Vertical Axis Wind Turbines
4.2 H-Rotor, Giromill
4.4 Multiple Blades, Multiple Rotors
4.5 Squirrel Cage
4.6 Other VAWTs
Chapter 5 Airborne Wind Energy
5.1 Generator Aloft
5.2 Generator on Ground
Chapter 6 More Wind Turbines
6.2 Blade, Spar Angle
6.3 Other Rotors
6.4 Lift Translators
6.5 No Rotor
6.7 Magnus Effect