The Chinese are pushing ahead with their own wind technology innovations. Developers there have unveiled what’s being touted as the world’s first full-permanent magnetic levitation wind power generator. What does this mean? I’m assuming that using magnetic levitation, or maglev, there’s less friction and wear and tear on components. This allows the turbines to capture energy from lower wind speeds and apparently extends the life of wind power plants by 1,000 hours.
According to the chief scientist behind the technology, the generator can boost wind energy generating capacity by as much as 20 per cent over traditional turbines and dramatically lowers operational expenses of wind farms — by as much as 50 per cent. This, he claims, would drive the cost of wind power to below 5 cents (U.S.) per kilowatt-hour.
The Worldwatch Institute, citing Xinhua News, said the new technology could potentially fill the power void in locations with no connection to the grid by harnessing low-speed wind resources that were previously untappable. “With an increasing number of Chinese and international investors joining the global booming wind power market, the technology is expected to create new opportunities in low-wind-speed areas worldwide such as mountain regions, islands, observatories, and television transfer stations. In addition, the Maglev generator will be able to provide roadside lighting along highways by utilizing the airflow generated from vehicles passing by.”
I’ve emphasized the final sentence in that quote because there has been much debate about the potential for harnessing wind from traffic on highways. Some say the resistance caused by the turbines merely makes vehicles work harder and use more fuel, counteracting any perceived energy benefits. But if these things levitate on magnets, perhaps the low resistance makes this scenario more realistic.
Whatever the case, it will be interesting to see how the Chinese attempt to commercialize this technology beyond its own borders.