The San Diego Alternative Energy Meetup Group Message Board › Wind, Wave, GeoThermal › Wind Wing (alternative to turbines)
San Diego, CA
Santa Barbara Independent
Gene R. Kelly
Kitty Hawk All Over Again
The interior of the building is an enormous, skylit space filled with roomy cubicles, each one shaded by clever adjustable canopies. Along the perimeter are a number of enclosed offices, including that of Gene R. Kelley, one of Santa Barbara?s most remarkable inventors.
Kelley is a grandfatherly Southern gentleman given to wearing soft-brimmed black fedoras in the afternoon, and suspenders, traditions from his Virginia upbringing which is also evident in his light, charming accent. No newcomer to inventing, Kelley can claim credit for, among other things, the bumps on the side of the highway that wake you up if you drift too far to the right, called rumble strips. He is retired from Human Factor Engineering in Goleta, where he worked on projects as diverse as big-rig seats and flight controls for high-speed aircraft. Though Crandell was the first and biggest booster for Kelley?s new company, called Innovatech, Tratner is nonetheless pleased to promote him. It was easy to see why when Kelley explained his latest invention, a wind-harvesting machine which seems truly amazing.
Prop-driven turbines, developed in Carpinteria by wind-farm pioneer Jim Delson, are ?magnificent engineering accomplishments,? said Kelley. However, they are less than five percent efficient in converting the available wind in a given ?swept area? to useful energy. ?That?s like a farmer planting 100 acres of corn and harvesting only five,? he said. By contrast, Kelley claims that his machine, the WindWing, is 40 to 60 percent efficient. His idea was to design ?something almost like a Venetian blind that will provide more contact with the wind force.?
?Have you ever put your hand out the car window?? he asked. ?You turn it and it goes up. That?s positive lift. Your turn it the other way and it goes down, that?s negative lift.? With a sensor attached to the wing system to adjust its angle of attack, the symmetrical wing will catch as much wind in one direction as the other. Utilizing a mechanical advantage, as they say in the trade, of 10 to one, the machine will convert 200 pounds of lift into one ton of useful force, Kelley said. He also invented an accumulator that stops the wing when it gets to the top or bottom and turns it around mechanically. The energy collected at that turnaround is accumulated and introduced back into the wing on its return trip. ?I don?t know what the mechanical advantage is, but it could be 30 to one,? said Kelley. ?We don?t know yet, we haven?t tested it, but we?re going to.? He also does not yet know how high they can stack the wings on a single pole.
One of the most thrilling moments of Kelley?s life was the maiden voyage, as it were, of the WindWing. He and two of his teammates ? vice presidents Mike Remenih and David Buckalew ? first trotted their prototype out of its Goleta hangar one day in early April of this year. They set it up outside and then went back in to fetch the fans to generate wind. ?When we got back out, it was running all by itself,? he said. It turns out that the wing will start in winds as mild as five or six miles per hour, compared to the 12 or 16 miles per hour needed to get propeller-driven turbines spinning. It was Kitty Hawk all over again. ?Mike got carried away,? Kelley recalled, ?predicting that we would be planting an Innovatech flag on the moon.?
One great advantage of the WindWing over turbines is that it reduces the footprint of the wind farm, and it decentralizes production so that collection can take place nearer to the user, perhaps as near as a breezy backyard. Also, the contraption?s movement is so gentle that birds could perch safely on its wings, Kelley said, whereas propellers kill not just the large raptors that get all of the publicity, but bees and all kinds of small birds that simply become ?a puddle of little feathers flying all over the place.? As a sideline, the WindWing can accommodate solar panels on its spacious surface.
That?s not all. The team found out that if they turn the WindWing upside down and put it in an aqueduct, it becomes the WaterWing, using the water?s weight and constant flow to create approximately 800 times the force available from the wind.
That?s one of the five basic ideas Kelley is working on. He can?t talk about the others yet.