Good Vibrations Promise Cheap Wind Power

We all know the drawbacks of wind power. Aside from space and a sufficient amount of well, wind, power-generating windmills also require a significant investment for construction.

Shawn Frayne devised the Windbelt, which doesn't require lots of space, wind, or money. The system generates power from the vibrations created when even a tiny amount of wind hits a strip of material connected to a magnet.

Windbelt isn't exactly a new invention—it was named by Popular Mechanics for its 2007 Breakthrough Awards—but Frayne was able to create a start-up based on the technology (Humdinger Wind Energy LLC). Three variants of different sizes are scheduled for a demo within this year.

Tthe microWindbelt is a 5" x 1" self-contained unit that generates enough power for sensors or small electronics, while the one-meter long Windcell produces 3 to 5 watts of power. The large-scale Windcell panel, built by bunching Windcells together, will produce 100 watts and cost $1 for every square meter taken up. That's more than enough power to drive a netbook.

A Windbelt still requires sufficient wind to for maximum generation (6m/s or 13mph), but the system can still create power at lower wind speeds. The inventor claims that it is perfect for urban environments, where ever-changing wind conditions minimize (or even eliminate) the effectiveness of rotor-based generators.