Lightweight, collapsible, and quick to deploy, this little wind generator might be a viable off-grid portable power source in places where solar isn't appropriate.
For the most part, when looking for a portable renewable energy source, small solar chargers are the way to go, as they're getting more efficient (and cheaper) all the time, but we've also featured small hydro devices and the occasional small wind turbine here on TreeHugger, each of which has its own appropriate time and place for use. While these other portable renewable energy generator technologies aren't nearly as mature or as easily available as solar currently is, that could change in the coming years, as this next project, a prototype micro wind turbine, suggests.
Wind turbines are a tried and true cost-effective renewable energy source when they're big (and the bigger the better), but small wind turbines, especially those said to be for urban areas, aren't nearly as effective as their marketing materials seem to show. One exception to that rule might be in remote and off-grid locations, where smaller turbines can power homesteads or expeditions, and even more so in locations where long hours of sunlight aren't the norm but constant winds are. Another exception might be on a very small scale, where the goal is to keep mobile devices charged, and that's where École Cantonale d’Art Lausanne design student Nils Ferber's Micro Wind Turbine prototype may come in handy.
According the information available on his site, as well as on the James Dyson Award site, Ferber's portable vertical axis wind turbine promises to be a lightweight option for providing off-grid electricity in places with abundant winds and problematic access to direct sunlight. The device is designed to pack down into about the size of an umbrella for transport and storage, and then to quickly unfold into a three-bladed Savonius-style turbine which employs a rugged fabric as the blades. The telescoping mast is then staked to the ground, where it can catch the wind from all directions. The turbine is said to be "suitable for unsteady and gusty winds," and it could potentially be put to use in conditions which might otherwise be unsuitable for solar, such as overcast days and at night.
The turbine's rotor is directly connected to the generator shaft at the bottom of the mast, which then outputs the electricity to an integrated USB port for charging other devices. According to Ferber, his fully functional micro wind turbine prototype is capable of producing "a constant output of 5 Watts at a windspeed of 18 km/h" and can either charge devices directly, or be used to charge the device's 24 Wh battery pack.
Ferber is said to be looking for partners who can help to further develop his design and build it into a "marketable product," and will be showing the Micro Wind Turbine at Dubai Design Week next month. More info is available at his website.