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Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

Apr 28

FloDesign Aims to Expand Wind Turbine Business

Posted in Energy Industry | Wind Power | Wind Turbines

FloDesign Wind Turbine Backed with a $3 million assistance from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) Wilbraham-based FloDesign Wind Turbine Corp. will expand its operations in the state. The company is recognized as the developer of a U.S. Department of Energy-recognized “transformative” wind energy technology. It will maintain its aerodynamic research center in Wilbraham along with establishing a new corporate headquarters and product development center in the historic Waltham Watch Factory. The company also intends to assemble its first wind turbines in Massachusetts. If everything goes according to the plan, the company will establish a new benchmark for other wind energy technology companies to look up to and aspire to.

FloDesign has raised $40 million of venture capital financing in two rounds after winning the MIT Clean Energy Entrepreneurship Prize as well as the Ignite Clean Energy Competition in 2008. The company was awarded an $8.3 million grant in 2009 also, as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s highly competitive Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) program, which supports the development of “transformational” energy technologies.

The company was founded in 2007, after leveraging its knowledge of turbine design based on the jet engine technology. Its shrouded wind turbine design is expected to deliver more than three times the amount of energy as traditional wind turbines for the same size rotor. The rotors of its turbines are very small in size and they can be easily installed and utilized at places where there is high consumption of power but there is no space for conventional wind turbine towers; airports, for instance. It’s significantly smaller compared to other wind turbines and also costs a lot less to install and operate. With the help from MassCEC’s Renewable Energy Trust the Massachusetts Port Authority has already shown a keep interest in deploying FloDesign’s wind turbine technology.

“Massport embraces technology that helps the environment and we are very excited about the prospect of bringing this cutting edge wind energy technology to test it in an airport environment,” said Thomas J. Kinton Jr. CEO and Executive Director of the Massachusetts Port Authority. “We look forward to working with FloDesign to understand the technology fully and push for the necessary regulatory approval from the FAA so that we can install one or more turbines at a Massport airport in a pilot program.”

“FloDesign has been recognized for its ‘transformative’ technology by U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, and I am pleased to see this innovative Massachusetts company choosing to stay and grow right here, creating jobs and helping Massachusetts show the nation and the world the way toward a clean energy economy,” said Deval Governor Patrick.

As a part of the deal of the financial package the company has promised to generate around 120 new jobs in Wilbraham in the next 3 years. Although most of the investor of the company are based in California, the local government has tried hard to keep the expansion of the company within Massachusetts.

  • styke

    It seems to me that the advantage is in cost, not space used. I like this design because it seems readily adapted to a bird-safe design.
    Fans in my house have a screen around them. A similar screen could keep birds out without significantly reducing wind flow, if there was a shroud to attach the screen to. Here is such a shroud.

  • Jason

    The design itself may already be bird safe. It is the massive swinging blades that take out birds (mostly raptors btw,) and the FloDesign’s shroud should prevent such problems.

  • Boneheaded1

    I’m looking forward to actually seeing one of these built. They’ve been touting themselves for quite awhile without having a working prototype. It’s all been computer graphics. About time.

  • Ronald Billingham

    I see that most has been covered but what about sound?

  • Doug

    Is this FloDesign turbine quiet enough to place smaller units on residential city homes? If so I see a real potential if the cost and maintenance payback are in the the ball park.

  • Mike Maybury

    No mention of sound, which is a problem with most turbines. Is this design better or worse?

  • Euroflycars

    “… more than three times the amount of energy as traditional wind turbines for the same size rotor.”

    OK, but what about large rotors with this high optical, structural, and material density, i.e. the weight and cost involved, particularly with high-rise pylons to tap stronger winds?

    Traditional three-bladed rotors are filigree structures with blades that are by no way fragile — nor slow, since the wing-tip speed is a high multiple of the wind speed!

    I don’t trust government-sponsored alternative energy projects when the trend is again towards nuclear power plants. This project probably just serves to discredit the current high-yield three-blade windmill…

    Remember: the OLPC is also a MIT product — hundreds of millions of children are still waiting for it…

  • Tharindu

    wow… great idea… imagine replacing all those bulky turbines with this… it will increase the effectiveness and encourage more people to actually go green!

  • styke


    What is the deal with three blade turbines? I remember back in the day the theory was 2 blades were better than three, and 1 blade with a counterweight was best. I never see such designs anymore. Do you know what changed?

  • Euroflycars


    Three is the minimum number of blades to ensure constant orientation torque around the vertical axis. With a two-bladed rotor this torque comes close to zero in the vertical blade position where the orientation could then be quickly changed by a strong gust, thus generating high structural constraints as the gyroscopic momentum of the blade tips would tend to make them resume their former horizontal position — the same applies of course to a one-blade rotor.

  • Gary Schabel

    This is a complete con job. “Conventional turbines extract 50% of winds potential energy. Flowdesigns turbine extracts 3 to 4 times as much energy from the winds.” In my book, 3 to 4 times 50% is 150 to 200%. Any thing equal to or greater than 100% violates the first law of thermodynamics. All the rest of is irelavent hype from the spin docters including Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

  • Jason

    While I can’t say this is not a con job for certain until the video is of a functioning prototype, I can think of some explanations for the energy difference. The hoop behind and around the blade structure supposedly directs the wind current in a way that adds their surface area to the total energy potential. If all you compare is blade structure areas then you could appear to violate thermodynamic law, but that is due to faulty analysis of the devices. Really we should wait to compare them purely by cost efficiency, as that seems the only realistic measure of success these days.

  • Will

    I can say this is a con job and I would bet £100 to anyone who wants to take the offer you will never see one of these fully operational and harnessing anything like the power they claim. traditional turbines capture about 30-45% of power in the wind. This would mean this was harnessing 95% power or more, so would be taking power from a wide area around the shroud. watch there animation video showing how wind behaves one way in a normal rotor then magically completely different for their rotor. bull.

  • styke

    euroflycars, thanks for the answer. As always, actual engineers have to deal with ALL the constraints, while folks like me on the outside only deal with one or two, and wonder why the world is so slow to adapt to new stuff. 😉

  • Brendan Donovan

    I think using turbines placed atop the buildings in Metro Boston to generate electric power for the city and establishing a carbon free zone inside Rt 128 is the most viable method and economical plan to leave the fossil fuel era finally …and move on.


    FloDesign effectively dusted off the old Grumman Ducted Augmentor Wind Turbine (DAWT) approach with lobed ejector version to try to avoid some of its flow deficiencies/sensitivity of the ducted wind turbine. The bottom line is that it still has the basic limitations of effectively being a single awkward rotorhead on a skinny pole that is very difficult to scale.

    Any advantages they cite are more magnified with the WARP design (such as less land use, much smaller rotor use, robustness, bird friendly, etc. Noise suppression is better with the WARP wind turbine design ( due to presence of multiple rotor sources and taller removed distance (unlike FloDesign’s. Plus WARP is projected to cost less per kW – due to simpler mass producible identical components.

    Former Vortec Energy (WWW.VORTECENERGY.COM) in New Zealand, licensed the Grumman Aerospace ducted diffuser concept (DAWT=diffuser augmented wind turbine)and could not make it work economically.

    FloDesigns unit, like DAWT, is also a ducted amplifier wind system. However, relative to the modular, mass producible WARP system, it has a number of drawbacks, not the least of which are:

    [FloDesign allegedly claims to have solved this to a degree with lobed flow mixing diffusers.]



    4. DIFFICULT AND LIMITED SITING CAPABILITY (needs large lifting equipment).



    A DAWT type turbine is very fickle aerodynamically and needs to be well aligned with the wind to avoid turbulence and performance degradation.

    The reason the duct is problematic is that it is a flow induction system unlike a WARP, which is akin to nature’s saddle ridge that gets ram air flow.

    The duct shape is also more complex than the WARP design and introduces structural complexity issues. WARP is symmetrical and can be easily constructed out of one or two simple panels. Plus it is structurally stronger with less material and adapts easily to a core tower in a manner a duct can not. Another major drawback with the duct design is that it can not be easily put on towers nor stacked for redundancy. So it is typically confined to low speed near ground winds. WARP modules also make the tower stronger structurally.

  • Thomas Marsocci

    How is the unit do on a structure mounted surface?
    Does it have any harmonic transfer?
    What will be the sizing for a typical structure?

    Thank you.

  • RHM

    Karen Fry,

    You lay out several good arguments against the FloDesign turbine, but the WARP alternative your promoting appears just as problematic. I checked the web site and it hasn’t been updated since 2002 – so where’s the beef there? As a wind turbine engineer (design, testing, aeroelastic modeling, consulting) for the past 17 years I can tell you I’d love to see the new concept that replaced the ubiquitous 3-bladed design, which is far from problem-free. But there are reasons nearly EVERY utility-scale machine is 3-bladed, horizontal axis, upwind, variable speed, variable pitch, perched on as tall a tower as possible:

    1) up – that’s where the wind is (any low-to-the ground concepts can pretty much be dismissed out of hand. Power goes with the cube of wind speed, so maximizing wind speed is job number 1 for any turbine designer/manufacturer/developer)

    2) ducts, fancy towers with wiggles (a la WARP), etc. all add COST and COMPLEXITY. Your basic 3-bladed rotor is kind of minimalist – someone already pointed out that 3 blades is the minimum for inertial balance. 4 or more is better for aero efficiency, but you add a lot of cost for a little gain, so you stick with 3.

    3) horizontal rotors that orient themselves into the wind are *always* going to be more efficient than any vertical axis turbine. Windmills have been around for about 1500 years and they started off as vertical axis machines, so we’ve been through the design cycle on this. Many times. Vertical axis is (sometimes) prettier, but horizontal axis is more efficient, okay? I refer you to the latest edition of Wind Energy Explained, by Manwell, McGowan, and Rogers, for a good primer on basic wind turbine aerodynamics (and lots of other wind turbine topics).

    4) variable speed/pitch helps increase efficiency and gives you options for controlling loads – both structural and electrical (better for the electric grid). Adds complexity, but overall you gain.

    I in no way want to discourage inventors and creative thinkers. But it’s frustrating to see so much money get poured into an idea that (sorry) is probably going nowhere. I graduated from MIT, so was a little surprised to see the FloDesign get so much attention and accolades. I think people need a little more practical experience, or they wouldn’t be so enamored of the beautiful CFD graphics of nicely-behaved wind vectors (that point Karen makes about turbulent flow and shifting wind direction as a major issue for the FloDesign turbine is absolutely correct. To my mind it’s an obvious deal-breaker.) OK, enough said. Everyone should just do their homework.

  • Kevin Friesth

    We are working on a test prototype before our full pre-commercial build to ready for commercial production. We have also done our full size prototype and have roughly 2 years of testing and analysis done. We didn’t go out and spend like there was no tomorrow so it took us longer and we didn’t just hype alot before we had a working FULL size prototype. Our pre-commercial tower is initially set at 10 mw plate est 592 foot tower but our full tower is a 30 mw system 1286 foot. We have verified our projections and models with performance data from the full size prototype we built in early 2008 of which we will be announcing more about soon in press releases. If you wish to know more check out our website at the video tells the story.

  • Dan Parker

    SpiralAirfoil vs FloDesign,

    I would like to congratulate FloDesign on a good attempt at extracting energy from the wind, from what I understand, they do come somewhat close to our SpiralAirfoil Design in efficiency, however their bird is far more complicated and costly then our unique approach. Our test data shows the Spiralairfoil design is over 4.2 : 1 times more efficient then the traditional tri-blades.
    Thank you

  • adam t.

    This design is fantastic! I have one idea.
    Is it all right to add one more rotor at the opposite site of the turbine? one rotor to spin the shaft of generator clock-wise. And another rotor is to spin the housing (with magnet) of the generator anti clock-wise.
    I am sure this method will generate 100% more power than the conventional design.
    But just 30 minutes ago I saw the same concept at youtube.

  • JS

    why adam t. that’s a fantastic idea.

  • adam t.

    Because I am sure that method will generate 100% more power than the conventional design.

  • Lucifer

    There is a fixed amount of energy per area of wind. If a traditional wind turbine can extract 30% and the Flo design 90% it means the diameter can be made smaller to give the equivalent power. But what about the cowling. Surely that will cost a lot of money in material and cost of manufacture. I think eventually the cost of manufacture will be higher, leaving the rest of the advantages (easier transport) to balance out.

  • Larry Jones

    When I was a kid in So Cal, we used to take our Ultra Lites out in the desert to fly, I remember the Extreme Thermals everyday, I feel if they would point their Wind Blades toward the ground, they could generate more power from the Updraft Thermals than now as they just sit waiting for a Breeze.

  • Larry Jones

    I wish I could meet someone from Wind Farm Tech, I remember the Sun would Heat up the sand, ‘n the Thermals would Blast up all day into the night, ‘n while flying you would feel the Updrafts alot Stronger than any Crosswind. I guess the thing is, you can’t see wind, you have to be up there to experience it.

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