Imagine electric transmission towers that not only move electricity but also generate it. ENECO Texas LLC’s founder Al Weisbrich, developer of the Wind Amplified Rotor Platform (WARP), believes it’s feasible. WARP modules, capable of generating up to 500 kW with wind (assuming typical 200 ft. tall transmission towers in good wind sites) and another 25 to 50 kW with photovoltaic panels covering their surface, might be an ideal way to disperse renewable energy it into the conventional power infrastructure.
ENECO recently patented WARP internationally and makes it available under patent license. The wind amplifier module speeds up wind with a velocity amplification factor (VAF) in excess of 1.5 over free wind, depending on configuration. The process is similar to the re-direction of wind by mountains or buildings, increasing its speed by diverting it through narrow canyons. “With the cubic effect of wind speed on power output, this amplification factor means that an increase of 65 percent in wind speed would result in a 450 percent increase in power,” says Weisbrich.
The modules create a peripheral flow channel that mimic nature’s ideal high wind site for wind turbines, namely the saddle ridge, which is a canyon pass on top of a high smooth hill. However, unlike nature’s saddle ridge, WARP modules can accept and amplify the wind from any direction and are tailored to their integral turbines, which are passively oriented to the wind by their modules. The degree of amplification, which may be as high as 1.8 times free wind, depends on module and system configuration.
According to Weisbrich, the aerodynamically designed toroidal-shaped amplifier modules can be integrated or adapted to many kinds of existing structures including buildings and wireless telecommunication towers, and even offshore drilling platforms. He sees no reason why they could not be integrated into electric transmission systems. He also believes that with today’s concern and need for providing economic means to expand and enhance transmission systems, this approach may also aid access to right of ways.
Weisbrich says WARP is not a purely green technology. It may be designed so it can also operate as a stand-alone system or provide on-demand power with a gas turbine, microturbine or diesel engine housed in the tower base – and reduce fuel consumption and pollutants from 50 to 70 percent. It may operate eventually in an ultra-clean manner with fuel cells fed by wind-generated hydrogen from water, particularly if applied in marine offshore sites.
WARP towers would also function much as turbine units in a wind farm, except in this case, the wind farm would be the WARP transmission system. Power from the WARP units would be accumulated and carried in parallel on separate lines on the towers until sufficient capacity has accumulated to warrant step-up and connection to the accompanying high voltage lines, matched in frequency and phase to the primary lines.
Based upon test data, Weisbrich says cost of energy (COE) for WARP is projected in the $.02 to $.04/kWh range, but with recent research findings and patented design improvements, the WARP COE is projected even lower.
For large utility scale capacity systems, each module level has two rotors, typically 6 to 10 feet in diameter, although use of even larger diameter rotors is possible. Weisbrich believes latter may lead to WARP power capacities 5 to 10 times that of today’s largest big bladed wind turbines without giant blades and structures, which are an entry barrier to manufacturing utility scale windpower systems for most firms.
One WARP application concept would integrate transmission towers with wind turbines. Illustration courtesy of ENECO.