Renewable rivals: lightning-inspired wind harvesting technology set to take on turbines

A wind-harvesting technology that works in a similar way to lightning is set to take on turbines as the renewable of choice in blustery areas.

Aerovoltaic energy, which wouldn’t use turbines, would see the unsightly and giant blades banished in favour of cheaper and more efficient energy-producing paneled devices.

Accio Energy, which was founded in 2008, has built a new generator that can caputure more energy than traditional offshore turbines.

Jen Baird, CEO of Accio Energy, told Factor that it is able to produce 20% more energy than a wind turbine in the same conditions for less money.

She also said: “There’s no moving blades so it is very different to turbine-based technology. It enables us to cut 50% of the costs out of the infrastructure.

“The two main areas where we think we have a measurable, commercially interesting difference is the cost is much less for the same amount of energy and the capacity factor is better.”


It first achieved a positive energy output in 2010, and has had funding from the National Science Foundation, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and more – which shows the huge potential for the technology.

Field tests are taking place by the company at present and it says there has been interest from organisations in Europe and the US.

It sees its technology as a viable alternative to offshore wind turbines and says in 10 years time it would hope to be considered for all major offshore wind projects.

“It is basically based on the same physics as a thunderstorm. In a thunderstorm you have rotating winds and that separates positive and negative charges to the top and bottom of clouds and when it builds up enough potential energy between those charges you get a bolt of lightning.

“We’re essentially doing much of the same thing in terms of separating charges and building up potential energy – we just don’t let it get to the point of being a bolt of lightning.

“When you think that Mother Nature has been doing this through all of history it doesn’t sound quite as crazy.”


The company say its technology will be able to easily be able to harvest energy that is easily fed into high-voltage systems.

Baird said: “The physics actually drive the better performance. Essentially you have a panel that is wind permeable, so the wind blows through the panel and it separates electric charges, so it is based on electrostatic.

“It creates and electric field that the wind works against and the wind pushes the positive charges away and leaves behind the negative charges and we harvest those negative charges as a high voltage direct current.

“So we’re a kind of high voltage technology that would hook in very well to the high voltage transmission lines that are being put in place now.”

Featured image courtesy of Accio Energy 

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