Dean Kamen’s Inflatable Wind Turbine Doubles As Digital Billboard

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Most wind turbines have a recognizable shape, but a new design from Segway inventor Dean Kamen is less obvious in its functionality: This turbine has a vertical axis and rotors made of plastic fabric meant to be easily moved by the wind.

Archetypal wind turbines require a good amount of steel and concrete to be built, and once installed, it is difficult to move them. Kamen’s design uses air to inflate the rotors, which act as giant sails. The rotors can be easily deflated, making the turbine not only lightweight, but mobile.

Kamen believes turbine mobility would help owners generate more energy with the ability to toss turbines on trucks when high winds are predicted nearby. This could give rise to a new breed of storm chasers, although questions remain as to how much wind these turbines can handle, and how they would be installed in a temporary location to prevent them from flying away.

In his patent application, Kamen describes how the turbine’s light weight could also allow it to be installed on rooftops that can’t withstand the weight of the steel-and-concrete variety.

Another unique feature is an LED system that transforms the turbine into a digital billboard. Powered, of course, by the turbine they’re embedded in, the lights could display content like images, messages, advertising, weather advisories and traffic delays, and offer owners another potential revenue stream.

The unusual displays could also inspire conversation about wind power, and awareness is Kamen’s main objective with the design: In his view, the design isn’t so much a green tech breakthrough as it is a different approach to the possibilities of wind power.

Hat tip: EarthTechling