FloDesign’s Stanley Kowalski dropped by the Berkshires on June 26 to present a talk titled “Innovation in Wind Power” at Bascom Lodge atop Mount Greylock. Mr. Kowalski founded FloDesign Wind Turbine Corporation, which manufactures wind turbines using a unique, more compact and efficient design. An aerodynamic nozzle, the same technology used in aircraft, is used in the wind turbine design.
As Mr. Kowalski explained, the company started out by patenting what it called a RAP Nozzle System, a device that shoots air through a vortex. After attempting but failing to get funded to develop products such as leaf blowers, non-lethal weapons, and smoke rings that would incorporate this nozzle, the FloDesign team decided to try building a wind turbine. “So we thought about this nozzle system, the same team, we have the background to be able to design nozzles, and somebody said why don’t we build a wind turbine?” said Mr. Kowalski.
Traditional wind turbines have multiple drawbacks, as Mr. Kowalski pointed out. Their long blades makes transportation difficult, and their large-scale size means that mega-farms are often required. Siting can be an issue, as some people don’t want to look at these large structures. There are also concerns about their impact on birds and bats, as well as their noise levels. And existing turbine designs are maxed out aerodynamically.
The FloDesign wind turbine marks a distinct departure from traditional turbine design, using aerospace technology to produce a turbine that is several times more efficient.
“So here we are, these guys that know how to design nozzle systems on airplanes, and we put it in reverse,” said Mr. Kowalski. “And what is unleashed is three to four times the efficiency. It was a profound change.”
FloDesign turbines extract three to four times more energy from wind than traditional turbines, because the traditional three-blade design means that wind moves around the blades instead of through it. “Only fifty percent of the energy can come out that area of a traditional turbine. The rest of it goes around and is wasted,” Mr. Kowalski explained.
The compact design allows you to site more turbines per location. “We also have lower maintenance because the blades are half the diameter [compared to traditional turbines],” said Mr. Kowalski.
FloDesign turbines also take away the threat to birds and bats. According to Mr. Kowalski, FloDesign hired avian expert Dick Smallwood to qualify their turbines. “Dick Smallwood gave our turbines the blessing. The Sierra Club of California said this turbine will not kill birds.”
The typical cost of a FloDesign turbine is $200,000, about 40 percent lower cost than a traditional wind turbine.
Right now the company is still in its initial phase and has not yet started selling small-scale turbines for individual homeowners. “Ultimately we do want to sell to the homeowner, but it’s after we’ve got a good stake in the industrial and commercial side of things,” said Mr. Kowalski.