18 Mar Objections and Vortex’s limitations
As our technology is completely new and follows an innovative line of investigation in this kind of physics, people tend to mislead its capabilities.
We have received and seen a lot of objections and claims about our technology from people with many backgrounds. Some are right or partially right since our tech has its cons and limitations (of course, this is engineering, not magic), but others are completely wrong or misleading. Here we have collected a bunch of them to provide a proper answer. Below you have a comment section to contribute so we can add them to the list.
You can also check this other sibling article about Vortex’s features and pros with real features but also debunked myths.
1.- The inner rod (the core) will break easily with the continued oscillation.
Indeed the core suffers almost all the mechanical fatigue from the device’s operation. But poltruded carbon fibre is an amazing material, it has made possible modern aerospace engineering and modern wind turbines. If you apply the regular formula to calculate the time-span to failure by fatigue, you will find that the cores can withstand millions of cycles, around 80 years working at full operation and full time.
This is obviously too much, and when you perform computer simulations taking into account many other variables, you get around 25 years, which is more realistic. This is still above the minimum required for wind turbines, and the devices are not going to be operating at full mode all the time, so we don’t really worry about the cores breaking any soon. However, more field tests are needed to know exactly how many years would they be operational for real.
2.- The sweep area is very small compared to a regular wind turbine.
What size of turbines are you comparing? If we take into account a Vortex device and a regular HAWT of the same size from ground to tip of blade, our sweep area is around a 30% of the area the HAWT would have, therefore and minding same efficiency, around a 30% of the power could be achieved physically speaking. But if you make the same comparison with a VAWT and a HAWT turbines, other numbers are going to appear. This is so relative… each machine would have a better fit.
It is true that the lower the swept area, the lower the amount of energy that you are able to harness physically speaking. However we don’t see this as a con but a result of the design, since it is precisely due to this lower swept area how we can be noiseless and harmless to wildlife, among other features derived.
This doesn’t need to mean anything on real installations, as big vortex devices will produce a lot of power anyways, while keep being noiseless and birds friendly. Sometimes a regular HAWT installation will be more useful than a Vortex one, sometimes the opposite. It will depend on the exact case, exact location and exact usage. Not everything is about raw power! Since we are not here to replace regular windmills, consumers will be able to choose what technology fits their specific needs best.
3.- Vibrations are going to be transmitted to the base and make my house vibrate.
On first instance, it is better to think about oscillation instead of vibration as it is quite slow. This oscillation is going to be mainly absorbed by the alternator and tunning system, either turning the movement into electricity or “bouncing” the system with adequate frequency. On the other hand, for the little energy left from the oscillation to be transmitted to the base, the material of the anchoring or the structure where it is anchored should have a similar elasticity constant. If not, energy is mainly bounced or cushioned and dispersed.
4.- It can only be placed in a vertical position.
Although the devices would somehow work in a horizontal position, the different centre of gravity will damage it over time and surely it won’t work well during that time either. They may work upside down, we never tried. But in general, the centre of gravity should be at the base of the device. This is in fact an advantage over regular windmills, which have the centre of gravity up high in the nacelle so they require a huge foundation.
5.- ROI will be impossible, the devices will never pay back.
This question is hard to answer since there are many variables here. In general, is a simple calculation of money that enters per money in form of energy that goes out. But you have to take into account the whole lifecycle of the turbine and the installation, production costs, logistics, all expenditures derived, the energy price of your area, side costs for land, taxes… In general, all renewables pay back sooner or later, being wind power usually the slower one among all.
Generally speaking, if you try to calculate ROI for a regular wind turbine of small size (with real data and not with the too-good-to-be-true data that manufacturers usually provide) you will find out that all small wind power is not very profitable unless you have very good winds or you need it because you are off-grid. Big and huge wind turbines have better numbers here though, the bigger the more cost-effective.
In the case of Vortex devices, it may happen the same; small devices are less cost-effective and have a worse ROI than bigger ones. However we can count on some pros here, like the lack of oiling and maintenance needs, the low production and logistic costs, the easiness of changing parts, to be able to work with turbulent winds… etc… Final figures might be more favourable to Vortex than to regular wind power in the case of small wind turbines, and reach similar numbers on bigger devices, it is uncertain yet. To know this for sure we first need a production line and gather data about several installations over years.
Nevertheless, be sure the tech is going to pay back; you can always improve efficiency while lowering costs with proper optimization. This always happens with all technologies and has happened with wind power over the last decades, so it will happen for Vortex with time.
6.- The devices cannot be noiseless, the vibration must produce noise.
Physically speaking, any movement or working system leaks energy in form of noise and heat. We are not an exception. But there are three main aspects to take into account here: First is the amount of sound energy (Db), Second is the frequency of the sound (Hz), Third is the ambient noise contamination and the minimum threshold of measurement.
For the last one, if there is no wind, the device is not working. And if it’s windy, it’s noisy because of the wind, so such an ambient noise will cover any other noises around that are less energetic than itself.
For the first, the energy that could be leaked in form of sound is too weak that cannot be measured within the wind noise, although physically it must exist.
For the second, the frequency lowers if the design gets bigger. Vortex Nano is the smallest and works at around 14Hz in full operation. That is way below what humans and most animals are even able to perceive. For Tacoma models and bigger, this frequency goes below 9Hz, out of range for any living thing.
Anyways, the amount of energy leaking in sound is so low that all of this doesn’t matter at all. You just won’t hear them, even standing beside them, unless the device is broken.
7.- Vortex is only able to work within a specific wind range.
It is true that we can work only within a specific wind range, it is also true for regular wind turbines as well. But this range is calibratable and is set by the design and size of the device. Also, there is an inverse proportion between energy generated and the wide that range is, and all of this mostly depends on the final usage of the device and the mean wind speeds of the place. Within some limits, we are able to calibrate the devices to better fit a specific scenario, or be more open to changing scenarios.
In regular wind power happens kind of the same. Every wind turbine is designed to work within a wind range, and they have a “sweet spot” or nominal velocity in which they are the most efficient. This spot is calibratable for them as well as it is for Vortex.
8.- If Vortex uses the same materials as regular wind power, LCoE and Carbon Footprints cannot be lower.
The key differences are in the amount of material per W produced, the production process costs, workload, and the overall maintenance costs and pollution per W produced, among others. Sounds easy, but to calculate the whole carbon footprint or levelized cost of energy of a wind turbine is very very hard due to the incredible amount of variables you have to take into account over many years and different locations and sources. You can only get estimations at the end.
Since we haven’t a production line and haven’t had installations that have lived their whole lifespans from raw material to wasteland, we cannot know numbers for sure. But early estimations made by us and fellow organizations like SEO Birdlife suggest that we can lower the LCoE and the Carbon Footprint of an average HAWT of the same size as a Vortex device. This is not sure at all, and it will take many years to grasp accurate data about this.
9.- I need a batteries system and power electronics to install Vortex devices at home.
This is true and it is true as well for solar panels and other small wind turbines. You can actually don’t have batteries and electronics but you will be limited to 12V DC and irregular availability of the energy. Batteries allow you to use the energy when you need it and store it when you don’t, they are kind of necessary. The electronics, like an inverter, make the energy compatible with your home’s grid.
Most countries need a certified installer to perform this kind of installations. And we recommend you to rely on professionals unless you know very well what you are doing, electricity can kill you!
10.- I cannot mix up solar panels and Vortex devices in my home installation.
You totally can! Small wind turbines and small vortex devices work with the same kind of current as PV solar panels, so you just need to connect them in parallel to your existing power electronics, batteries and inverter (be sure your system withstands the extra power) . There is an added pro, as vortex devices are low profile, they don’t cast many shadows so they won’t interfere with the panels.
11.- A single Vortex device won’t be able to power my entire home.
This is true unless we are speaking of really big devices. But this is true for a single solar panel, or a single small wind turbine as well! When you think about solar panels, you think about installing an array of them. With vortex devices happen the same, don’t think about install just one as they can be placed quite near each other (about half of the device’s height) and don’t require much foundation.
Anyways, to have a full self-sufficient house is not that easy with current technologies and nowadays consumptions. You should aim to lower your bill a little and become greener instead.
12.- Vortex devices cannot equal the size or power output of nowadays big wind turbines.
Maths and simulations tell us that the tech can be scaled up to really big devices that can match the size and power of the turbines we see now out there. How big we can get depends on the materials used and the Reynold’s number we are able to work with. We are right now exploring the possibility of 150m high devices with great partners like Equinor. However, it is a huge task to develop and prototype such a giant, so huge vortex devices will still take many years to come.
Of course, bigger devices mean better cost/effectiveness, and it is very desirable to make them big (same with regular wind power). The limitations in size for regular wind turbines and vortex turbines are very different, so a future gigantic vortex device might overcome some of the off-shore wind power we currently have. Time will tell.
13.- You cannot install vortex devices on soft wood, or light plastic, or anchor them to a tree or any other flexible surface
Although our devices are more stable and require less anchoring than regular wind turbines of the same size, this anchoring and base must be very very rigid in our case. If not, the very base is going to act as a “cushioner” and limit the amount of energy that can be harnessed. On the other side, if the base is not attached strongly enough, the device may fall down (although this is true for regular wind turbines as well and way more dangerous in their case).
The best materials to attach Vortex turbines to are concrete, steel and solid rock. Hard and dense wood / plastics, even aluminium, can be possible depending on the size of the device. On medium to small models, the system of attachment will be a steel plate, that comes with the device, and that is screwed tightly to the selected surface. Bigger devices may require a specific foundation (like armoured concrete cubes) or a specific architecture planning if they are going to be installed on rooftops (same as bigger regular wind turbines).
14.- B2C selling will take years. Industrialization of production and certifications/homologations for this tech are not so easy
Since this is completely new and almost all parts of the devices require specific manufacturing or special materials, it is not easy to set up production lines. Many parts like the mast require a specific thickness or weight that is achievable with current manufacturing methods but not everybody can do it. We also require materials like neodymium, which is common in wind power, but also not so easy to obtain within specific properties or shapes. Some others are quite expensive if you don’t order a lot of them. Take into account we are a small startup and we cannot afford to have a whole factory working just for us and modifying their production lines to match our needs, at least not yet!
There is also the assembly process, which is done by hand in our workplace by now. Later you need the logistics to store and deliver these if we were selling B2C, and a proper customer and technical service. But for selling b2c first you need to pass certifications and homologations of wind power in each country. For example in Europe these usually take years, and they are meant for rotating wind turbines with blades, so we may need a modification in the current laws for our devices to be legally installed here (imagine how slow this bureaucratic can be).
On the other hand, one of our goals is to make this tech as affordable as possible so anyone can have it. This depends mainly on the costs of production we can achieve and the level of optimization we can achieve, and both are not quick processes. So it will take many years for you to see competitive vortex devices for nice prices out there in a store in your town.
15.- I can anchor a few of these to my semi trailer / truck / caravan / boat and generate energy while I’m driving / sailing like I do with solar panels.
“In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics” – Homer Simpson
When you are moving by the energy of an engine and you put a wind turbine to work, it will make you spend more energy than the one you are generating with it. The second law of thermodynamics here!
However, if your vehicle or boat is parked and standing still, and it is windy, you can definitely anchor a bunch of wind turbines up high and charge some batteries. But not when driving, sorry. This is true both for vortex and regular wind turbines. Nevertheless, if you are in a sailing boat powered by wind sails, this doesn’t apply, so go on!
Now you tell us! Anything else that should be added to this list?