The future of wind power
By Mike Heine/The Week
At times, the three blades of a traditional 120-foot wind turbine stood nearly still.
Yet Adam Fuller's 36-foot-tall vertical wind tower, standing just yards away, turned silently in the breeze. The only sound? A small chain wrapping endlessly around a sprocket no louder than a bicycle.
Fuller, a Racine inventor who spent his entire life savings on his project (he is living in a motel to cut expenses), thinks he has developed a windmill design that could power the future.
"The concept is pretty basic," Fuller said of his wind tower, which stands in Marlin Dunham's back yard in rural East Troy. "What made sense to me is to create a design with a lot of surface area.
"That creates a more efficient machine by creating more drag on one side and an aerodynamic shape on the other side."
Stacked together are eight turbines, each with four wind scoops. The early prototype design is just half as tall as Fuller is permitted to make it, but so far he is impressed.
Since October, it has spun flawlessly, and silently, in the slightest breeze to sustained winds of 50 mph, he said.
"I have indications that it is going to work. It's a good theory," said Dunham, who powers his home and others with two traditional windmills and solar panels on his roof.
Fuller claims his patent-pending all-steel design could be built for about $150,000 and pay for itself in four years with electricity savings and being paid for supplying energy onto power grids.
If it ever hits a height of 120 feet (he is permitted now for a 72-foot tower) and reaches into the mainstream winds, he feels it could produce 30,000 to 75,000 kilowatt hours monthly, enough for 30 to 70 homes. Most homes use about 1,000 kWh per month.
He can build one, by himself, in about a week or two at his Racine fabricating shop, he said.
Traditional wind turbines, like the ones proposed in Magnolia Township, rely on revolutions per minute by having wind glance off a blade.
Fuller's more pinwheel-like design has more points of impact for the wind to strike. Thus, it takes only the slightest breeze to turn the blades and is still able to produce a considerable amount of rotational torque to spin a generator, he says.
"There are multiple impact points as wind goes through the turbine," he said. "It focuses on torque vs. rpm's like traditional prop designs.
"It's a more efficient process. Think of a diesel engine. The load capability that a diesel engine can carry is much more than a gasoline engine, but it operates at a much lower rpm than a gasoline engine.
"Higher efficiency is the focus of it (by) processing the wind better than the current technology does."
More pros than cons
Fuller thinks of himself more as an inventor than he does an environmentalist. He knew he could make the design and knows it can work.
Along the way he realized his machine was virtually silent and harmless to birds.
Traditional turbines will kill migratory birds with the blindsiding of a blade, he said. His vertical design is a solid stack, visible enough for birds to fly easily around.
It also produces almost no sound when it gets moving at speed, which he has tested up to 90 mph.
"I'm going to change everything we know about alternative energy," he said of the design.
An added benefit is the generator is at ground level, making maintenance easier. The bearings high up in the tower can also be greased from the ground.
Roping the wind
Fuller hasn't caught on yet with an investment group willing to finance or put his tower into mass production.
He hasn't even hooked up a generator to his unfinished prototype yet. He doesn't have the money to buy one that can work on lower revolutions.
But he is hopeful there will be a market. He envisions thousands of "micro" wind farms with several towers on as little as three acres powering our future.
"I realize the situation that's coming in 20 years, both with global warming and with current energy reserves," he said. "It's pretty alarming, when you do some thorough research, the situation that we're going to be in if there isn't some new technology introduced."
For more information
Interested in Fuller's ideas? Want to become an investor? To find out more, call him at (262) 308-7948.