Innovations: Racine inventor creates a better windmill

The Obama administration vowed early on to make the research and development of alternative energy sources a focus during the next four years.

At the same time, Adam Fuller, a Racine inventor, has designed a new type of windmill that he says could revolutionize the nation’s wind-powered energy markets. 

Fuller has designed a vertical windmill, with bucket-like wheels on a center axis that is more efficient and can obtain more kilowatts per dollar than traditional windmill designs.

“Previously, it was unheard of to have a vertical design, because it was deemed impossible to create,” Fuller said. “In a vertical design, regardless of the wind direction, one half of the windmill is always going against the wind. That is a tremendous waste of power that could be utilized, which is why I have designed my vertical design with a baffle system.”

The baffle system in Fuller’s design is essentially four steel walls, secured to the ground and placed at diagonals adjacent to the windmill structure. The baffles channel and then squeeze the wind into the windmill and create a vortex at the center, which balances the airflow speed, regardless of the wind direction.

Throughout his research, Fuller discovered that there is no negative airflow (airflow going against the direction of the turbine) within his windmill system. He discovered a zone of interaction between the air flows outside the system, those going around the structure and the air flows inside the system.

This interaction creates a vacuum which utilizes outside energy to contribute to the flow rates of the air inside the system, he said.

The baffle system therefore creates a system capable of producing a much higher efficiency of electricity produced per square foot of swept area than conventional windmill technology, Fuller said.

“The baffles are what counteract everybody’s previous notions. They create the vortex airflows,” Fuller said. “It literally creates something similar to what occurs in nature in a tornado.”

Fuller has built a 36-foot prototype of the windmill in East Troy. He has tested and retested the design, and he admits that there have been many failures on his nearly three-year journey to develop it.

“At first, the vertical design was a complete failure, but I had already put so much into it, I just kept remembering a quote someone once told me: ‘You would be surprised at what you can accomplish, when you have to,'” he said. “That kind of just stuck with me, and after a series of simple tests and observations, that’s how I came up with the baffle system.”

Based on some of his studies on the prototype, Fuller has discovered that for every 10 foot of baffle, the output of electricity is increased nearly 300 percent for a marginal overall cost increase.

“The baffles create a lower cost per kilowatt produced, so the ability to make them even larger reduces the costs per kilowatt even further,” Fuller said. “Bigger is definitely a better investment.”

Right now in the small windmill market, the end user cost is $8,000 to $10,000 per kilowatt produced. The medium market is $3,000 to $8,000 per kilowatt.

According to Fuller, a traditional windmill that will produce electricity for a single household will cost somewhere between $50,000 and $75,000.

“They are very expensive for what they return,” Fuller said.

According to Fuller, the bigger the turbine, the more efficient it becomes, but then it costs more to build.

Fuller’s windmill is built in cubes that are stacked. According to him, the structure can be as small as 24 feet in height or as large as 120 feet in height. 

“Right now, I am projecting that my windmill can produce 250 kilowatts of electricity in 35 mph wind,” he said. “I can sell a full-size 72 foot machine for around $300,000, so I am at about $2,000 per kilowatt.”

Fuller says he still needs to construct a full-scale model of the baffle system and achieve third-party confirmation of the design.

“The surface area of this turbine is immense when compared to even a large diameter traditional (windmill),” Fuller said. “There are thousands of ways to turn the power of the wind into a rotational force; however the level of efficiency is what is so important.”

An efficiency rating is derived by taking the square footage of swept area and comparing it to the force produced with varying velocity of winds.

“The idea is to get as much rotational force out of a set amount of swept area as possible, and even minute increases in efficiency can mean an increase in the amount of energy generated and can also lower the wind speed requirement for effectiveness,” he said. “Upon conducting different tests, the vortex action created, and the large surface area swept create opportunities for an even more efficient machine to be constructed.” 

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