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The Fuller Wind Turbine System: More Compact, More Efficient

Solatec founder Howard J Fuller Jr has announced US patents are pending on the Fuller Wind Turbine System, a new, compact type of wind turbine that can be used to generate electrical power. This unit is much smaller than conventional wind turbines and should be especially useful in rural areas that are located off-grid.

By combining the wind turbine with a fuel cell system, an uneconomic and undependable power source is turned into a far more valuable, utility-grade, "peaking" power-generation system.

  • Vertical-axis, fully enclosed turbine that can operate virtually anywhere.
  • Average wind speed around 8 knots.
  • Not affected adversely by high or gusty winds.
  • Inlet and exhaust openings are screened to prevent wildlife injury and radar reflections (as per Bureau of Land Management and Department of Defense guidelines).
The Fuller Wind Turbine System comprises a turbine, which turns a brushless DC generator, which powers an electrolysis unit. This unit separates hydrogen and oxygen from a closed-loop water reservoir and stores the two gases in high-pressure storage tanks (preferably in separate underground "bunkers").

The high-pressure tanks provide the compressed gases to an appropriate fuel cell for generating electricity. Utility-quality fuel cells are currently available to provide 50 or 60 cycle AC electricity for either grid-tied facilities or standalone applications.

The two byproducts of the fuel cell are:
  • Water vapor, which is condensed and fed back to the reservoir.
  • Heat, which may be used for building heat and/or to warm the water reservoir during periods of cold ambient temperatures.
Typically, utilities purchase power as "base load", "intermediate" and "peaking" from independent power producers (IPPs). There are two components to the purchase. Typically, the utility purchases capacity and energy as two component costs.

A typical base load unit, such as a coal-fired power plant or nuclear facility, has high capital costs. These are passed on to the utility as a percentage of the capital cost (capacity) and the corresponding electricity represented by the contracted energy. That energy cost is generally quite low, as these power plants operate 24/7. Each utility purchases only the percentage of these plants needed to serve their continuous, or base, load because of the high capacity cost.

On the other hand, the two components of peaking power are reversed so capacity cost is low. Peaking power units, typically gas turbines, are comparatively inexpensive. But energy costs are high because the fuel consumed is usually diesel or jet fuel - and a lot of it. It's not unusual for base load energy to cost 2-3 cents/kilowatt hour (kWh) as compared to peaking costs of more than 20 cents/kWh.

Intermediate power plants are just that: somewhere between base load and peaking power plants for both cost factors.

Run-of-the-river hydroelectric and wind power typically are undependable, so utilities are loathe to pay for this capacity, as it must be backed up by a more dependable source. The energy from these two sources is bought by utilities at base load pricing, which is typically the lowest possible energy cost.

The Fuller Wind Turbine System, however, provides utilities with the best of both worlds: the dependability of a peaking unit with the energy costs of a base load unit. Energy is stored in the hydrogen and oxygen storage tanks until needed. The fuel cell takes only a few minutes to startup, and it continues to produce electricity until the fuel is exhausted. Fuel is then replenished by wind power on the off-peak.

In addition, there is an economically viable market for the Fuller Wind Turbine System's byproducts of compressed oxygen and hydrogen. (A replenishment system for the distilled water used in this process is required).

The production of hydrogen by the System can be accomplished in an urban setting since the turbine produces no TV interference or perceptible noise -- and it does not require a tower hundreds of feet tall. In fact, it's ideal for placement at many gas stations or building rooftops. This would mark a great leap forward in developing the "Hydrogen Highway" across the country.

As applied to agricultural areas of the country, the Fuller Wind Turbine System can produce renewable energy (for resale to power utilities or for building heat) and hydrogen for powering farm equipment.

The Fuller Wind Turbine System turbine eliminates the typical eyesore objections of the community since the design is no more obtrusive than a water tower. Benefits include:
  • No visible moving parts, just minimal rotational movement of the turbine housing as it aligns with the wind.
  • No TV interference.
  • No wildlife injured by its operation.
  • No interference with military radar systems when properly constructed.
  • No dangerous visual distraction of moving parts can be seen by passing motorists.
Solatec LLC is currently seeking funding for a prototype installation to be sited in the Nevada area. The most recent wind resources map produced by the Department of Energy reveals many suitable wind sites for that purpose.

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