Could the exhaust from jet engines provide wind power to generate free electricity for airports?
(photo: Port of Seattle)
Wed 7 July 2010 – A US industrial designer believes he has come up with a novel concept that harnesses the jet exhaust from aircraft waiting to take off to create freely available wind-generated electrical power for airports. With around 35,000 jet aircraft taking off at over 900 commercial airports daily, Phoenix-based Richard Hales says there is an airliner taking flight every 90 seconds at hundreds of commercial airports throughout the United States. Hales’ FreeWind generator units would be sited in the vicinity of blast fences positioned at almost all airports to defuse jet engine exhaust that can reach 300mph. Without the necessary financial and engineering resources of his own, he is looking for an investor so that a prototype can be constructed and tested in a real-life situation.
FreeWind is essentially a reinforced housing unit that contains a wind turbine, flywheel and generator. Several units can be linked to increase the number of turbines and generators as space and power requirements demand. Hales says that each generator would produce constant clean electrical energy from the first flight in the morning to the last take-off at night. The electricity, he says, would be created near where it was needed and so reduce transmission costs.
There are a few technicalities that Hales still needs to address and he is unsure at this stage how much electricity can be generated from a FreeWind unit, hence the requirement for a prototype.
“I have received numerous ideas from individuals in the wind energy industry but as I am a general design consultant and not an engineer, with limited experience in wind energy, I have to rely on others to assist me in the final design of the product which would include the amount of electricity that possibly could be created,” he says.
“One problem that has been expressed by some of the input is there is too much wind available. Addressing that issue is an area I am researching now. The solution might be to locate the wind generators behind the blast wall and control the thrust with openings and baffles in the wall. This solution not only addresses the problem of too much wind but also puts the FreeWind units safely out of the constant and direct blast of the jet engines. All this is speculation until I can acquire the funds to have a prototype constructed and tested in a real-life situation.”
With the aid and support of former presidential candidate Senator John McCain, Hales approached his local airport, Sky Harbor International.
“The three persons I met with were impressed with the idea,” he recounts. “However, there was nothing they could do unless I produced a working prototype for evaluation by the City of Phoenix. Since I was not able to afford the construction of a prototype, the idea remained undeveloped for over a year.
“Now that I have it protected with a provisional US patent (61/281,541), I am able to present the idea for partnering and funding to build a patentable prototype for testing. I am looking for a university, engineering firm or group with the knowledge and creative strength to share in the development of the FreeWind concept to make it a reality.”
Hales admits that his concept has been derided by some he has shown it to. “I have had people look at my idea and tell me I'm crazy, but then couldn’t explain why,” he says.
“I see being considered a little ‘crazy’ a good thing. After all, everyone thought the Wright brothers’ dream of flying was just that, a dream.”