April 14, 2008 A name familiar to Gizmag readers through its achievements in the field of Unmanned Aircraft Systems, AeroVironment is also a developer of efficient electric energy systems, an area in which it has recently been awarded a series of patents relating to its "Architectural Wind® Building-Integrated Energy Generation System" - a system which takes a new approach to harnessing wind power using low-profile turbines designed to maximize electricity generation by taking advantage of the way wind flows over certain types of buildings.
Wind has been used as a power source for over 5,000 years, but what's new about AV's the modular wind-turbine system is that it's tailored for use in modern urban and suburban environments (without creating an eyesore on the landscape). The system uses small, individual wind turbines atop and along parapets of buildings the size and shape commonly used for big box warehouse stores, harnessing the building’s aerodynamic properties, eliminating the need for turbines to be mounted on towers and (hopefully) adding to the aesthetics of the architecture by virtue of the sleek, modern design.
The way it works is this: when wind hits the side of a building, it travels upward at an increased rate of speed. As a result, the wind patterns at a building’s parapet generate more energy than those on the flat section of a roof, and that means more energy. Without ducts or flow turning devices, the Architectural Wind system uses the natural wind flow but also leaves sufficient design space for architects to explore shrouds, canopies and other ways to integrate the system along the parapet and into the building design. The modular turbines are scalable and start from as little as 6kW with many buildings able to accommodate 100 or more wind turbines. They are designed to perform their job smoothly and quietly thanks to a unique blade design that significantly reduces noise and vibration and can withstand gusts above 100 mph.
The system also provides a space-saving alternative to conventional large scale wind farms which use up large chunks of rural land. These turbines typically require wind to blow at speeds of 12 to 14 miles per hour to create electricity but Architectural Wind on the other hand, can operate at wind speeds as low as 5 mph.
AV was recently awarded three utility patents and six design patents by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) along with 12 European design patents relating to new approaches to renewable energy generation on buildings. The patents relate to wind turbine assembly features, building attachment methods, and positioning procedures.