From the ABC 7 Weather team

Segway guy's new wonder invention: Inflatable wind turbines

September 16, 2011 - 05:00 AM
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Dean Kamen, the man who gave us the gyro-tastic Segway, has a new world-altering brainstorm: Windmills that blow up like party balloons.

An inflatable wind turbine, similar to the one Dean Kamen has filed a patent for. (Courtesy of WinFlex)

Dean Kamen, the guy who gave us the Segway scooter, has a new world-altering invention: Windmills that blow up like party balloons.

You can read all about it in the Sept. 8 application he filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, a rather extensive document rife with mentions of "light emitting diodes" and "inflate and deflate commands," as well as a described mechanism to prevent "popping."

Don't giggle! This idea has actually "passed the laugh test," according to Forbes magazine. Here's why.

The "blades" of inflatable windmills are lighter than those of run-of-the-mill, solid windwills. They are more easily moved by the wind and more energy efficient. That matters a lot, given how cumbersome and heavy the blades can get. Check out the diameter of the turbine in the above example of an inflatable windmill manufactured by an Israeli corporation, WinFlex.

Regular windmills are also limited in mobility. Where you stick 'em in the ground is where they stay. But inflatable ones can... well, here's how Kamen's application puts it:

Transporting and/or moving a wind turbine may be advantageous for many reasons, including, but not limited to, the ability to move the wind turbine based on weather patterns and/or predictions. Thus, where a conventional wind turbine is installed in a particular location and relocation is a highly involved process, where the particular location of install experiences low wind and/or inadequate wind for energy generation and/or preferring amount of energy generation, and/or experiences weather that may be harmful to the wind turbine, that wind turbine may fail to meet a predetermined need and/or be harmed by the weather. However, in various embodiments of an inflatable sail wind turbine, the inflatable sail wind turbine, experiencing non-optimal weather conditions, may be moved/relocated to an area with more beneficial weather conditions and/or safer weather conditions.

Meaning, just let the air out of the thing, put it on the back of a flat-bed truck and drive it to where the weather's better.

And Kamen isn't just aiming to be green with these wind-powered wonders. Those LEDs mentioned in the patent app? They're part of a scheme to sell advertising on the windmills much like billboards on the highway. So while some may chuckle at another brain fart by the gyroscope dude, Kamen could be chuckling all the way to the bank (riding a Segway, no doubt). (Hat tip to New Scientist's One Percent Blog.)

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