With $3 million grant, PAX Streamline creating new design and efficiency

[caption id="attachment_16374" align="alignright" width="216" caption=" A new, low-cost, high-efficiency wind turbine is under development at PAX Streamline. Photo credit: GTRI and the U.S. Nav"][/caption]

NOVATO – PAX Streamline, which will soon launch a revolutionary air conditioning system, has received a federal grant to pursue a promising new wind turbine design.

The turbines – cheap, lightweight and highly efficient in both strong and weak winds – could have the effect of dramatically moving wind technology ahead in the U.S.

"We have a technology that replaces the traditional teardrop shape of the solid airfoil blades now used for turbines with a virtual airfoil, created by blowing air out of slots in the leading and trailing edge of the blade," said PAX Streamline Vice President of Business Development Peter Fiske.

"Blown wing technology," as it's called, was developed by scientists at Georgia Tech Research Institute and has been applied to various experimental products, among them a helicopter developed by the Department of Defense. The technology has not yet been applied to a wind turbine.

"Traditional turbines are heavy, hugely expensive to build and are only optimal at certain flow conditions. Most of the time they're not fully functional," said Dr. Fiske.

The PAX design adjusts to any flow condition. It has the potential to lower the cost per kilowatt of energy from about 25 cents an hour to little more than 6 cents, making wind generation as cheap as fossil fuel.

"The trend in wind turbines is to build them bigger and bigger, especially in Europe where land constraints warrant large capacity from a small footprint," said Dr. Fiske.

"Installing giant blades – some up to 60 meters across – requires giant cranes. Often roads have to be built to accommodate them. We intend to bring the size down considerably, making siting and installation much simpler," he said.

The blades would be extruded, much like pipe, and made from very strong plastic rather than steel.

Funded to a large extent by $3 million from the federal Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy program, the blades could be tested and in production in as little as 24 months.

"We'll be looking for further investment to bring the technology to market," said Dr. Fiske.

One-year-old PAX Streamline has been funded so far by a $12 million investment from Vinod Khosla, who has funded a number of startups with green technology.

The company is part of a family of PAX Scientific companies that also include PAX Water Technologies and PAX Mixer.

Led by telecom veteran John Webley, the founder of Turin Networks, PAX Streamline's 30-employee staff includes engineers and product developers from Pratt Whitney, General Electric, Georgia Tech and U.C. Davis.