Alternative Energy

Alternative Energy

Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

Apr 26

Vertical Axis Windmill Invention

Posted in Energy Inventions | Wind Turbines

Vertical Axis WindmillToronto Inventor Tom J. Gilmour recently published his conceptual designs for what he is calling Tom’s Whirligig. Patent applications have been made, and Tom hopes to reserve all rights and worldwide patents for his design. Tom believes his windmill plans to be the most complex ever devised. While he is not yet sure of the workability of this concept, he is optimistic about its feasibility and hopes to soon find the time to build a working model. His website provides detailed descriptions, illustrations, Google Sketchup files and a blog for visitor comments.

Vertical Windmill

The focus of this new design is based around a continuously rotating carousel, which houses eight symmetrical airfoils. The entire carousel is mounted on a fixed vertical shaft. Each individual airfoil is meant to rotate 360° independent of the main shaft. A top mounted central weather vane keeps the cam shaft pointed at the wind. In high-intensity winds, the airfoils can be rotated to a zero angle of attack in order to prevent damage.

While tallest design that includes eight airfoils, he points out that the unit could theoretically work with more or less, as long as the tubular or central shaft is strong enough. Tom is recommending airfoils in multiples of 4, 8, 16, etc. for maximum efficiency. He believes there is no limit to the possible size and power output of his invention.

Vertical AxisAs far as strength goes, the main shaft, which is cemented in the ground, doesn’t move, so it can be as heavy as necessary to withstand any possible wind load. The carousel consists of a couple of wheels separated and affixed to each end of the tubular central shaft. Wheels can be made very light and strong (consider the wheel on a bicycle). The airfoils are attached to the carousel, at the top and bottom so that the main spar of the airfoils can be made much lighter. The weather vane and cam move very slowly and only with shifting wind direction. As far as the weather vane and cam are concerned, weight is not an issue. Hence, they could be made very strong. I would mount the airfoils so that their point of rotation was slightly forward of their center of lift so that they would have a natural tendency to weather vane. This would put a slight compressive force on the push rods and cam rollers. The force of the wind is transferred directly via the airfoil’s mounting bearings to the carousel. The push rods and bell cranks only control the attitude of the airfoils close to their center of lift, so they don’t need to be very heavy or strong. It would be possible to design this Whirligig with a fairly low rotating mass. Also, there is no chance of anything ever going supersonic unless you built a whirligig hundreds of feet in diameter (well maybe?). I have drawn the Tom’s Whirligig with eight airfoils but it would work with fewer or more. A carousel with only two airfoils might not start by itself. Three airfoils would work but probably wouldn’t be very balanced. I think a minimum of four airfoils would be practical. But 4, 8, 16, etc. (any even number above four) would probably work. One thing to note; it is possible at the low points on the cam, for the airfoils to go either clockwise or counterclockwise. It is very unlikely this would happen. An airfoil would go around backwards with its trailing edge pointing into the wind. But the perversity of mechanical devices says that if it can happen, it will. So I think it would be prudent, in considering the diameter of the carousel and the chord (width) of the airfoils, to design it such that the airfoils could pass each other, trailing edge to trailing edge, without interfering with each other. I don’t think there are any practical limits to the size of this whirligig. You could build one on the top of Mount Washington two hundred feet high.

Of all the possible uses Tom envisions for his invention, he is most excited about the possibility of mounting the windmill on top of a catamaran. He believes this would provide the boat with the ability to travel in any direction, including straight into the wind.

Tom is looking for other inventors working on similar ideas, and would love to see your inventions and sketch models, and hear your comments and suggestions. Here are some more resources for information about Tom’s Whirligig.

Tom’s Whirligig website:

Tom’s Google Sketchup Files:

Tom’s Whirligig Blog:

Related Information

  • Adrian Akau

    I have seen a similar design for an under water current device that produces electricity from moving water. Presenly a similar design without the blades can be found on another web site for children in Africa to pump water from under the ground as they play. If Tom were to put some seats on his invention and to install it in place of the merry-go-round children’s water pump, it could serve to pump water from the ground and, at the same time, provide entertainment for the children. Tom has a really good idea.

  • Max Kennedy

    Basically a Voith Schneider Propeller adapted to wind power. Should work but complexity brings reliability into question.

  • Phi Tran

    Years ago; during my research of wind turbine I have tested the basically the same design (just 4 airfoils instead of 8). Here my problem.
    1- It requires too many moving parts (to turn the airfoil . . .).
    2- The turbulence make those in the back become the liability rather then the asset.
    3- I respect the “Inventor”. He may discover some other thing that I could not.
    4- Any way we should cheer any effort in this area.

    I you wonder how ours look alike then it is:

    I hope this helps

  • Ant Williams

    Yrs & yrs ago my Dad built such a contraption – not based on aerofoils as yours seems to be, but with blades that were either perpendicular to the wind direction on one side of the tail axis, or folded away on the other.

    This large contraption – 5 metres across – was cause for much hilarity. The inertia of the whole thing slowed its response to wind direction change too much – the result of which was a wild, octopus-like flapping and clanging. A great conversation piece – even if it never pumped water!

    He lost interest in it at that point – so we’ll never know if he was onto something!

    Good luck.

  • Christian Bowes

    It’s a Voith Schneider Propeller working in turbine mode-nothing new to it! Much research has already been conducted into such a device and in fact most variable pitch giromills work on the exact same principle. Complexity limits feasibility and performance won’t be higher than current vertical axis turbines.

  • Glen Bolton

    Tom, what is the present status of your wind machine? Have you built and tested a large model? I am working on a similar turbine with automatic control of the wings angle of attack etc.

    What is your opinion of the large vertical mag-lev machine shown on, You Tube? I don’t know if is is real or not, but I suspect that it just exixts as someones dream. Your device looks like the wings are offset from the central axis so the moment arm is greater on the windward side. Maybe a good idea but how about balance during rotation?

    Respond please if you can, Regards, Glen Bolton

  • Pinto NH

    Very effective on low velocity of winds. It has twice of torque than the horizontal axis turbine. Furthermore, works on water current, low water current! More effective than traditional water turbine. We have similar (in concept) designs, based on our prototype made from biscuit’s can.

  • Victor Cheboxarov

    Yes. It’s a Voith-Schneider turbine. Despite of complexity, this turbine is better for low speed rotation (low noise!) than usual VAWTs and propellers. In 2005 we patented VAWT with passive mode variable pitch plus variable airfoil!

  • Peter A, Ruoss

    My carboard Model works just fine and is speed controlable. Please go to the link below.

  • http://noneatpresent Glen Bolton

    Hello all,

    I am interested in learning more details about the
    VAWT designs that have been tried, especially anything
    concerning the Broadstar system that has been alresdy
    shown in limited detail. Is anyone working on some
    new concepts here in Texas? thank you, Glen Bolton

  • Frank Porter

    Countless prior art at patent office of similar complexities. None became practical commercially. Simplicity is the key. Wind should do work entering and leaving. A plenum chambered design with fixed rotor and stator blades can do this effectively. Take a look.
    Frank in Billerica.

  • Bill Lange

    Simpler is better. Maintenance would be a problem with that many moving parts and bearing points. Being anywhere near it during a heavy wind might be hazardous to your health!

    I’m in the process of getting a patent on a really different and revolutionary VAWT design.

    Keep an eye out for ERIN!

  • Shane Folie

    I have been working on a similar design but my design varies in the fact that the airfoils are fixed and the blades are almost flat on one surface with a large camber on the other surface. The Blades also incorporate a leading edge on both sides and no trailing edge for the reason I will explain.

    1. Wind hits the forward blade creating lift therefore assisting rotation up. As the blade design should work this way for about 10 degrees.

    2. After lift effect has finished and because blade is fixed the drag or wind hitting the flat surface of the blade creates more rotation.

    3. As the blade passes to the back and because it has 2 leading edges it creates lift downwards further creating lift but still in the direction of rotation. I have also incorporated a vortex generator on the center axle to smooth the turbulent air from the front blade creating clean laminar air flow.

    4. There is a nacelle incorporated on the bottom 1/3 of the drum to negate any effect on the blade from the wind as it moves forward into the first position.

    This design only has 1 moving part. Any comments appreciated.

  • Shane Folie

    An amendment to my post above is it has stators not vortex generators to smooth the airflow.

  • TY

    Eventhough it is great to see the efforts put into the concept this design would ecom=nomically not viable. this design would need to be installed at high elevations and would take more space for safety resons.

    The design has too many components and maintenance costs would forbid the introduction of this system.

    Nevertheless, kudos for the efforts and interest in renewable energy.

  • tony

    A great piece of engineering. But the more moving parts you have the more time you have to put into maintenance. We need to think of how easy it is to switch on a light switch which is linked to a mains system and build your system as close to that reliability as you can. The simplest way of designing something that does the job is usually the best.

  • Ken Gray

    There was a (Flour) windmill of the same design in opperation in Margate, kent in the 1500s


  • Ken Gray

    Sorry, 1700s not 1500s

  • Michael

    I have recently provisionally patented a much better design. Simplicity makes reliability. I have invented a way to finally make wind power a truly viable power source.

    I was not even working on windmills when the idea hit me, but maybe thats why I was able to see the solution so clearly.

    I need help building the prototypes, data logging during the static and dynamic testing. Testing will be done in Texas at either Boca CHica Beach or South Padre Island. I have a meeting Monday at UTB-TSC in Brownsville, TX, e-mail me if your interested.


    Michael A. Max

  • gupta

    Endorsement of vertical axis models – now if you take these turbines and rotate them 90 degrees and then stick them on rooftops, I’m smitten!

  • gary

    I am currently working on building wind generators with 3phase motors converted to generators. Wanting to us vertical airfoils. Having a hard time finding any building plans for one. The post here sounds like you guys are pretty up on the subject. I like tom’s idea just rather large and to many moving parts. Anyone have an idea.

  • Michael Max

    Hello Gary, there are some small pics you can look at on my website, just click to enlarge. If you are interested e-mail me at,
    max-at- horizontal windmills . com

  • gary

    max tried to email you but seems to be a problem with your address. max-at-horizontal

  • alpha_omega

    I like where the article states that the inventor claims ‘this is the most complex ever devised.’ A pretty clear indicator that it has no future. I can say that with certainty because the concept goes back hundreds of years. I have various wind power books that bear out this same concept from the 18th century.

  • Michael Max

    Gary, I have to parse the e-mail or elso it wont get posted. again its, max at horizontalwindmills . c o m

    The website is, horizontalwindmills . c o m , you can e-mail me from there as well.

  • Nick Torbay

    The vertical axis turbine could surely be made simpler, fairly flat design with many blades, plus a clever cowling device to keep the wind powering from 1 side, centrifugal clutch & centrifugal brakes 1 moving shaft, anything would be better than that tired old horizontal design with 3 blades, only needs some imagination.

  • Larry

    Its a waste of time patenting this windmill because its nothing many other people have already designed and made.
    Its Pretty obvious to make the returning blades reduce their angle by a lever or cam mechanism.
    Everyone has though of it. I’ve already made a bunch just the same in the past.
    Its a good type for residential (not an open field) where the wind path is hindered by buildings.

  • Manoj


    well there are lots of talented people here, well i am just a student i want some help in building a vertical windmill, my interest is on the geartrain thats being used but i also need to have a simple vertical axis windmills to finish the project, i have tried with some blade designs but i would like to improve

    i would appreciate any kind of help

  • Nick

    there is no need to change the pitch of the blades if you make them the right shape to start with, think of an [anemometer], plus if you have it cowled in such a way that the wind would only strike where it is needed

  • Henry

    I think as Tom does not seem to have posted here or on his site for some years he must have realized that his idea has been done before. Talking of which Micheal Max – you have two ideas on your site – border-x which seems to me to be identical to an RFID tag and the hollow shafts – these have been used in jet engines since jet engines where invented. The wind turbine would work allot better if you joined the three rotors together and rewound the alternator to work with three times as much torque, the same is true of your car application. You don’t need more alternators you just need one correctly sized one, which would have one third of: frictional losses, complexity and cost.

Tree Shaped Wind Turbines to be Installed in Paris


A French company called New Wind is installing tree-shaped wind turbines at the Place de la Concorde in Paris, France. The company’s founder, Jérôme Michaud-Larivière came up with the idea

The Eiffel Tower Installs Two Wind Turbines


The 126 year old Eiffel Tower is going green! A pair of camouflaged VisionAIR5 wind turbines were installed inside the scaffolding on the second floor, and are expected to generate

The Lateral Axis Wind Turbine

Lateral Axis Wind Turbine Concept

Sri Lankan inventor Leelananda Jayasuriya just sent us this concept for a Lateral Axis Wind Turbine. The turbine functions just like a Ferris Wheel, with the blades orbiting in

Increasing the Efficiency of Wind Turbine Blades

Increasing the Efficiency of Wind Turbine Blades

To ensure wind turbines that are big in size work in a better manner, a new kind of air-flow technology may soon be introduced. Apart from other aspects,

The Wind Energy Industry is Nothing New

The Wind Energy Industry is Nothing New

Though our scientists may claim that they are inventing something new by using wind as a source of generating energy, the truth is that wind is being used for

South Korea Planning Massive Off Shore Wind Farm

South Korea Planning Massive Off Shore Wind Farm

Wind energy currently meets a mere 1.5% of global electricity generation. But scientists foresee a lot of potential in this alternative energy source. Asian countries are also trying to

Wind Energy Instruments getting Bigger & Better

Wind Energy Instruments getting Bigger & Better

Renewable energy production and demand growth is gaining momentum in many ways across the world. There is a booming demand of wind power today and all wind energy equipment

Fresh-Water Wind Farm on Lake Erie

Fresh-Water Wind Farm on Lake Erie

A fresh-water wind farm is taking shape at Lake Erie and when completed will provide 20 megawatts and get on to about one gigawatt power by 2020. Huge individual