Safer Bladeless Windmills Could One Day Dot the Countryside

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Opponents of windmills cite the dangers the spinning blades post to birds, the risk of damage due to storms, and the maintenance required to keep all those moving parts running smoothly. But what if a windmill lacked blades and didn't move at all? That's the idea behind the Delft University of Technology's EWICON which looks more like a modern piece of art more than an eco-friendly source of energy.

Also known as the Electrostatic Windenergy Convertor, the EWICON is composed of a steel frame filled with criss-crossing metal tubes that release electrically charged water droplets. As these drops are blown away by the wind a current is produced that can be used to generate electricity. So there are minimal mechanisms to fail, and the EWICON should run absolutely silent even in heavy winds.

But the structure erected at the university is only a small scale version designed for testing the concept. Although it towers over students in its current form, it will apparently have to be even larger to produce usable amounts of energy, and to compensate for the energy needed to pump the water. But if it works as promised, it seems like a far better alternative to the windmills we use now. [Delft University of Technology via designboom]