On the Roof – Prototype Installed for Harnessing Wind Energy

Near the center of Argonne National Laboratory’s sprawling, 1,700-acre campus sits Building 212, an industrial-looking, red-brick structure that was built decades ago. Recently, a modern and innovative touch was added to this otherwise non-descript building – one that could have major implications on the U.S. renewable energy market.

Accelerate Wind Founder and CEO Erika Boeing inspects the new rooftop airfoil and wind turbine system with Aaron Greco, Argonne wind research program manager.

A sloping canopy covers a portion of the roof, capturing the higher wind speeds that occur at the rooftop edge and feeding those winds into a new turbine.

With a novel system configuration designed to maximize wind capture and conversion, the prototype turbine could drive down wind energy costs by 60 percent or more, making rooftop wind generation a cost-effective prospect.

The system is the brainchild of Erika Boeing, Founder and CEO of Accelerate Wind, as well as a member of Chain Reaction Innovations (CRI) Cohort 2. CRI is an entrepreneurship program at Argonne – a U.S. Department of Energy lab – that embeds innovators at the lab for two years to develop their respective technologies for market-readiness. Boeing’s company is developing cost-effective, small-scale wind power systems for industrial and commercial buildings.

The prototype will validate Boeing’s computational fluid dynamics modeling, and it will help her evaluate the system’s integration with the building and the turbine’s effect on wind flow and vibration. Boeing has been working with Argonne senior scientist Aaron Greco, Group Leader for Materials for Harsh Conditions, on developing the rooftop turbine, the wind capture device, and a novel powertrain. Boeing’s team has been collecting data from rooftop sensors to help identify the best sites for installing the system and to optimize the design of the wind-capture system, as well as developing and testing the powertrain.

“Accelerate Wind is the first to really think through the cost equation of rooftop wind turbines holistically, tackling energy capture at the edge, power electronics, and the soft costs involved in sales and installation,” Boeing said. “This solution will allow wind energy to scale in the market alongside the rooftop solar market that has significant market penetration today.”

Accelerate Wind has installed this canopy to capture wind speeds at the edge of the roof.
How it works

The Accelerate Wind technology has two key components. First is the airfoil that hangs over the edge of the roof. This captures and channels the wind that is naturally faster at the edge of the roof due to pressure differences between the building face and the roof. Higher-speed wind is directed toward the turbine, allowing for a four-fold increase in power compared with installation without the airfoil.

Second, Accelerate Wind has re-designed its powertrain with a focus on cost, reducing the cost of the power electronics through a combination of sourcing components that are already produced in large quantities today, and through the use of intermediate energy storage in the powertrain.

The system is designed to be installed by trained solar installers, using existing practices for installing solar today. As the system installs on the edge of the roof, it doesn’t compete with solar that covers the rest of the roof, but instead can augment new or existing solar installations, allowing a commercial building to produce a greater percentage of its energy from renewables.

“Accelerate Wind is the first to really think through the cost equation of rooftop wind turbines holistically, tackling energy capture at the edge, power electronics, and the soft costs involved in sales and installation.”

Erika Boeing, CEO – Accelerate Wind

The majority of commercial buildings cannot produce their entire energy demand with solar alone, and the goal of this technology is to cost-effectively allow these buildings to move closer to net-zero energy generation. Accelerate Wind has been working closely with solar installer partners to ensure installability and a thorough integration of the two technologies. Just like solar, the turbines are designed to be installed in modules, with the number of turbines installed on a single roof changing based on the roof space available for modules.

 

Chain Reaction Innovations provides innovators with the laboratory tools, seed capital, and technical, business and manufacturing expertise needed to rapidly mature their early-stage technologies to enable them to attract the long-term capital and commercial partners needed to scale and launch into the marketplace. CRI is part of the Lab-Embedded Entrepreneurship Programs supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). EERE created the Lab-Embedded Entrepreneurship Programs to provide an institutional home for innovative postdoctoral researchers to build their research into products and train to be entrepreneurs. The two-year program for each innovator is funded by EERE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO).

 

The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy supports early-stage research and development of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies to strengthen U.S. economic growth, energy security, and environmental quality.

 

Read more about the impact of CRI innovators.

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