In a radical departure from traditional wind turbine designs, Wyoming-based Airloom Energy emerges from stealth mode, armed with a groundbreaking oval-shaped track featuring evenly spaced wing blades. Backed by $4 million in seed funding, including support from Bill Gates’s Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund, Airloom claims its innovative approach will redefine the financial dynamics of wind farms, potentially revolutionizing the renewable energy landscape.
Airloom Energy’s revolutionary wind technology challenges the conventional “fan on a stick” model, presenting an oval track with strategically placed wing blades that could significantly alter the economics of wind power. Unlike towering wind turbines, Airloom’s design, led by a fresh CEO from Google[x], emphasizes smaller and ground-level components, promising unprecedented cost savings throughout the wind energy production process.
The system operates with a series of 25-meter poles suspending the oval track, housing 10-meter wing blades connected by a cable. Resembling sailboats, these blades capture wind energy as they move along the track, maximizing efficiency. The unique design ensures that each blade contributes consistently to the system’s motion, avoiding the cost-intensive challenges associated with taller blades and tower structures.
Compared to a standard 2.5-MW wind turbine, Airloom asserts that its design, which fits on a single truck, boasts less than 10% of the cost, totaling under $225,000. Factoring in land requirements, a complete 20-MW wind farm setup is projected to be less than 25% of the capital cost, coming in at less than $6 million. Airloom claims this will reduce the Levelized Cost of Energy (LCoE) to approximately 1.3 cents per kilowatt hour, marking a significant reduction compared to current costs.
Beyond economic advantages, Airloom’s design addresses aesthetic concerns associated with towering wind turbine structures. The system’s horizontal and vertical scalability allows for flexibility in site utilization, potentially minimizing opposition from local communities. The company has already deployed small-scale prototypes and plans to utilize its seed funding for a 50-kW test device, with ambitions to commercialize and scale the technology.
Breakthrough Energy Ventures sees Airloom’s approach as a game-changer, especially in overcoming challenges related to siting and material costs faced by more giant turbines. As the wind industry grapples with the limitations of scaling up traditional turbines, Airloom’s innovative technology opens new possibilities, ushering wind energy into untapped market opportunities.
While acknowledging the potential of Airloom’s design, questions remain about its capacity factor in wind farm settings, particularly compared to the average 35% capacity factor of onshore wind turbines. The company asserts that its idea is adaptable offshore, offering a potential solution for harnessing wind resources in seas.
As Airloom progresses, cautious optimism surrounds the pace of development, given the reported challenges with their initial prototype over the past seven years.