[MUSIC] So you’re probably familiar with
the wind turbines you would see on TV. They look like propellers
spinning in the wind. We see a lot of room to improve
both the cost, the size and also the environmental impact
of wind energy technologies. So our work begins here in the laboratory,
testing these new innovative concepts for wind turbines. But ultimately, we’d like to get evidence
that they’ll work in the real world. And for that, we use our facility in
Southern California where we have up to 24 of these 30 foot tall,
vertical axis wind turbines. These turbines are a little bit
different because the blades they rotate on a vertical axis,
sticking up out of the ground. Almost like an eggbeater. And that design actually has an important
advantages when you think about wind farms where you want the turbines to
be sited close to one another. The air flow from one of these vertical
axis wind turbines, as we call them, can improve the performance of
the neighboring wind turbines. Now what’s unique about our site is
that rather than simply installing them at a fixed location as you’d normally
see in a commercial wind farm, we can actually move these turbines
around in any configuration we’d like to. In our actual research what we’d be
looking at our configurations inspired by schools of fish, flocks of birds,
a variety of natural systems where we know the groups can perform better
by interacting with one another. In wind energy the status quo has always
been to put the wind turbines far apart from one another, so
that they don’t interact. However in this case, we are finding
that we can get significant advantages by putting the wind
turbines close together. We are already seeing
the benefits in the real world. We have a project in Alaska
in a small fishing village where we’re developing a test site for
this type of technology. So the concepts that we learn here in
the lab, those that we test down in Southern California, in a matter of months
we’re able to deploy them to a community that actually can use the electricity to
reduce their dependence on diesel fuel. Now further along in the timeline
we wanna look at more exotic designs than even the one you see here. Turbines with flexible blades that
can bend in the wind like a tree does to survive very high wind events. The interesting thing about this
technology is that we can generate significant energy with turbines
that are only 30 feet tall as opposed to the 300 foot tall
systems you’re used to seeing. And so
what that potentially means is lower cost, a lower environmental impact in terms
of interaction with birds and bats. And also a lower visual signature, which means we can install
these closer to the end user. [MUSIC]