Meet America’s most extreme energy geeks
The pioneer: Dr. Walter Presz, founder and Senior Technical Advisor at FloDesign Wind Turbine Corp.
The concept: An entirely new spin on wind energy. With compact blades enclosed in a cylindrical casing, this high-efficiency turbine looks — and operates — like a jet engine. Instead of using energy to create thrust, it uses the thrust of the wind to create energy. An air pump behind the blades pulls in twice as much air as a conventional machine. In wind tunnel experiments, FloDesign’s small-scale prototype generated three times more energy than a standard long-blade turbine of the same size. The encased blades are also quieter and safer for humans — and birds — and the turbine’s compact size means it can be placed along highways, medians and bridges, in suburbs and maybe even cities-all places where bulky conventional wind turbines cannot go.
The payout: $8,325,400.00
The goal: A commercially viable prototype within two years, and ultimately a machine that is 30 percent cheaper than a conventional wind turbine of the same size.
The hurdles: Because of its expensive fiberglass casing, FloDesign turbines require more materials than conventional turbines of the same size — which adds to production costs. And if winds exceed certain speeds, the generator that creates power inside the turbine could overheat. Presz is exploring cheaper materials for mass production, and also designing better air-flow controls for cooling.
The promise: “I’ve worked on propulsion technologies for practically every aircraft in the skies today-from Stealth Bombers and the F16 to the Boeing 737. But this is by far the biggest reward I’ve worked for in my career. The U.S. is way behind Europe and Asia in wind. Now we have the potential to change the entire industry — pushing it from the propeller age into the jet age.”