The biggest wind turbines are larger than the Empire State Building. They’re getting bigger every year because longer blades grab more wind and create more power compared to the increased material costs.
Massive turbines typically lower the cost of wind farms because they require fewer turbines to create the desired capacity. But giant turbines are expensive and raise aesthetic concerns as they can dominate skylines. A startup company backed by business magnate Bill Gates aims to change both the cost and aesthetics equation for wind farms.
Gates funds many investments in many technology and climate-focused companies, including renewable energy companies. In 2023, his Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund invested $4 million in AirLoom Energy Inc., a wind power company with a novel design that promises to reduce the cost of wind energy.
Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV) is a private investment fund Gates founded in 2015. It combats climate change by supporting innovative and sustainable energy technologies and holds investments in a variety of related sectors, including renewable energy, storage solutions and grid efficiency as part of a push toward carbon-free infrastructure.
Another startup company seeking investment for its sustainability-focused mission is Paleblue, a provider of USB-chargeable batteries that can hold up to 1,000 recharges, to drastically reduce the volume of batteries reaching landfills.
AirLoom’s wind turbines look nothing like the traditional turbine design that resembles a large version of a child’s pinwheel-on-a-stick. It features a long oval track with evenly spaced wing blades. The track mounts to a lightweight, self-supporting tower, and the wing blades are constantly rotating around the track. When wind hits the blades, they create motion which goes from the cable to electric generators to create power. AirLoom Co-Founder Robert Lumley created sketches of the design years ago and drew inspiration from kiteboarding to create a new type of cost-effective and sustainable wind farm.
In addition to Gates, AirLoom also pulled in funding from other notable investors, including Lowercarbon Capital and MCJ Collective.
According to AirLoom’s website, the company’s design features multiple benefits compared to traditional turbines:
Cost is approximately one-tenth of the per-turbine cost and less than one-quarter the cost of building a wind farm
Allows for vertical or horizontal builds both offshore and onshore
Smaller form factor reduces transportation costs, as a 2.5 megawatt AirLoom can fit in a tractor-trailer
Smaller size does not require a massive concrete foundation, which can reduce local complaints about the negative aesthetics of towering wind turbines
Less noise because of slower speeds and smaller wings
Airloom is operating a 50-kilowatt test device in Wyoming. The company plans to use the funding from its recent investment round to scale its operations and build a 1-megawatt prototype to further prove its concept and attract customers and investors. AirLoom hopes to have its wind turbines commercially available in the next few years as it continues to make changes and generate interest.
“For decades, the wind industry has lowered the cost of energy production by scaling ever-larger turbines,” Breakthrough Energy Co-Founder and Managing Partner Carmichael Roberts said in a press release. “Although this has been extremely successful in driving down overall costs, the approach now faces challenges in terms of both siting and cost of materials.”
By reducing the cost of wind energy, AirLoom could make wind power more competitive with other forms of energy generation, such as coal and natural gas, accelerating the green energy transformation.
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This article Why Bill Gates Is Betting Big On Wind Power Startup Airloom: Company’s Novel Turbines are More Efficient And Much Smaller Than Traditional Giant Pinwheel Designs originally appeared on Benzinga.com
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