Apple poised to reinvent wind power?

“A patent application, reported by AppleInsider, filed by Apple in June 2011 for an “On-demand generation of electricity from stored wind energy” tells us that the company is working on a wind turbine that converts rotational energy from turbine blades into heat, which is then stored and used to generate electricity when necessary,” Ariel Schwartz writes for Co.Exist. “Today’s turbines often turn kinetic energy from turbine blade rotation directly into mechanical energy or electricity.”

“If it’s efficient and cheap enough, Apple’s turbine system could solve a piece of the renewable energy puzzle that has prevented intermittent sources like solar power and wind from being used more widely: storage–in this case, heat that’s stored in fluid,” Schwartz writes. “[Apple is] building a giant solar farm in North Carolina that will power an adjacent data center, which also uses fuel cells for power. In recent years, Apple also filed patents for hydrogen fuel cell designs that could power its line of gadgets. Just like with consumer electronics, Apple isn’t content, it seems, to just use the status quo technology. It has to invent its own.”

Full article here.

Related article:
Apple patent app describes storing rotational wind energy via heat in new on-demand electricity generator – December 27, 2012

40 Comments

  1. So Apple has invented a better way to kill tens of thousands of birds and bats per year. I’m sure all flying creatures will be happy that they will die in higher numbers with even more wind turbines.

      1. Exactly! Domestic cats decimate bird populations.
        Add to that massive deforestation and loss of habitat.
        Tall buildings with mirrored glass curtain walls are far worse in terms of birds killed.

    1. What we need is a MANHATTEN-style projects for fusion and space. Turn the administration over to the military, set a date and let them have at it.

      If we had done that with NASA instead of pretending it was a civilian operation, we’d have manned ships out to Saturn by now.

    1. While cleaner than coal, natural gas is still a fossil fuel and suffers the drawback of releasing otherwise sequestered co2 into the atmosphere. While its cheap to produce, the deleterious effects of burning it are not cheap to mitigate.

      1. You’re right, it’s not like plants process the CO2. And, of course, let’s not even get into the fact that increased use of natural gas has actually lowered CO2 emissions.

        1. Not enough plants with rain forests being denuded and all. doesn’t matter though. I’ve decided that I don’t care. It’s not that I’m unaware of the deleterious effects on the planet, but I just don’t care. I will be dead someday before this all comes hurtling back. But… I just don’t care.

        2. Even if that’s true, that only means it’s lowered CO2 emissions COMPARED TO using oil. It doesn’t mean (at least you didn’t state) that it lowered the amount of CO2 IN THE ATMOSPHERE ALREADY, thus “reversing” global warming.

          1. So if you don’t want luxury items like electric lights or power to rung the computer/mobile device you just posted to this list with, then by all means stop oil, coal, and natural gas burning.

            And enjoy living in your cold, dark, wet cave.

            1. The point is that there are alternative sources of energy that should be employed and emphasized as part of a more diversified and modernized energy infrastructure.

              Oil and gas are used for many things. Gas and diesel, for instance, are critical to our existing mobile infrastructure – trucks, cars, trains, and planes – while alternative energy sources could gradually replace a large portion of oil and gas consumption for electrical energy production. Fossil fuels are also used to produce plastics, fertilizer, etc. Burning huge quantities of a finite resource and disregarding the environmental impacts just because the oil companies want to maximize profits from oil and gas reserves is a criminal waste of resources.

              If, over the course of the last decade, you had taken a modest fraction of the $1T+ spent on war and, instead, built solar, wind, and wave power facilities and begun updating the power grid, we would be importing less oil (and at lower cost) and improving our country and the environment.

              This should have started decades ago. This is yet another example of the free market focusing on making money and not caring about the long term environmental or social impacts. I wish some people would take a step back from party ideology and consider the benefits of a diversified energy infrastructure.

            2. Bizlaw, don’t be a difficult prick. You seem to see this issue in only black and white. There is a middle ground and we eventually will go to emission free power generation. How long it takes depends on how long it takes the “flat earthers” like you to get out of the way.

          2. If we could cut our CO2 output from power generation in half using existing technology and a resource (Natural Gas) that is abundant and cheap across the continent, why wouldn’t we do that FIRST?

            By all means let’s develop renewables, but let’s get some real results, real fast, with Natural Gas.

        3. Only CO2 produced from burning fossil fuels has a different isotope which plants can’t readily metabolise.
          We need to remember that it isn’t just CO2 that burning fossil fuels puts into the atmosphere, but a whole swag of toxic gasses, elements and chemicals which find their way into the food chain which we then consume.

    2. Natural gas “peaked” in the US in 1973. We’re importing a lot of gas from Canada. Fracking for shale gas is not only very toxic, but the wells have a sharp drop off in production. It’s going to be interesting to watch this bubble pop in the coming months and years. We’ll have to save what’s left to heat cities in the winter – burning gas for electricity wasn’t a good idea.

      Of course, asking people to look at the numbers behind “irrationally exuberant” claims of supply is like asking people to remember the math they supposedly learned in high school. Gas just magically appears, there’s no need to look at what it takes to get it out of the ground or how fracking companies are not telling the truth about how big their reserves are. Jeez, you’d think people might suspect oil and gas companies might not always tell the truth when they want to boost their share prices (more reserves means higher share prices for a more valuable company).

      1. With fracing technology the US can unlock enough natural gas to last centuries. It’s not magic, it’s technology. It’s also why natural gas is down around $3. Remember when it was well above $10?.

        If the price was a little higher, there would be even more production. It’s all existing technology and infrastructure, so production can be ramped up in no time at all.

        There’s so much gas in the US that they have been shutting in wells, and there’s talk of reversing the pipelines. It used to be that the supply was in the west and the north, and demand was primarily from the Eastern seaboard. Now these regions of demand have their own supply. We’re literally in the middle of an energy revolution.

        No, it’s not a renewables revolution, but it’s the next best thing. It’s much cleaner energy than the coal that powers most of our lives.

        This natural gas revolution is a very good thing. But we can’t waste it. If we do it right, it will get us to a real renewables future.

  2. Just when the Bozos on Wall Street think Apple is at the end of the innovation line, surprise, Apple surprises back by reinventing another industry.

    Didn’t Edison say, “There’s always a better way.”

  3. The hydrogen fuel cell connection is interesting, because THAT could also be a way to store the wind energy. Use the excess power generated by the wind to create hydrogen fuel from water. Store the hydrogen and use it “on-demand” when the power needed (by the Apple data center or whatever) exceeds the power generated by the wind alone.

    1. “The Water Engine” is set in 1934 and tells the tale of an amateur inventor out to make a fortune designed an engine that runs on water. A 1992 made-for-cable television movie of the same name was broadcast by TNT. At the very least, an interesting concept.

      Present day we have limited, yet effective use of Hydrogen fuel cells. But the end result of the two is the same, whether fact of fictional. The firm grip of Big Oil (over 100 years) most likely will not move us away from fossil fuels anytime soon. And issues remain regarding hydrogen development and wide scale adoption.

      As Apple magic enters the energy arena, hopefully, we move forward in more ways than one.

    2. Reversible fuel cells may become commercially viable at some point. Right now, they cost too much to buy and maintain. In addition, there are substantial losses in converting mechanical to electrical energy and using that to dissociate water to store the energy, then processing the H2 and O2 through the fuel cell to re-create the electrical energy later. It works, but it wastes a lot of energy in the form of heat.

      1. The inefficiency is more relevant when you are wasting “good” electricity to make the hydrogen fuel. However, in this case, the electrical power is EXCESS energy from wind power that is otherwise NOT being used. So, when the data center has excess energy, use it to make hydrogen fuel (on site), even if inefficient (because it will not be used otherwise). Then, use the hydrogen fuel to create electricity “on demand,” again even if inefficient, because that’s “free” energy that came from the excess wind power.

  4. Not wind power. Not propane. And of course not any other fossil fuel. Similar to what Todd said, we need an Apollo program to produce hydrogen and a way to safely and efficiently store it and transport it, and do it at a fraction of the cost of oil. Burn it and you get water. I don’t think that is a pollutant.

    1. Hydrogen is a battery or energy store not an energy source. Very little free hydrogen exists. It is all bonded to other molecules (like water). You have to expend a lot of energy to break the bond and free the hydrogen. The hydrogen wants to re-bond and in that process gives off the energy that we get back. So you need an existing energy source to break the bond and there is a loss incurred in that process (about 20-50%). So you are wiser to just use the existing energy source than to consume at a loss to produce hydrogen. To liquify it for transport requires even more energy to be expended reducing its efficiency even further. So over all Hydrogen is not a very efficient energy source as it requires more energy to produce and store than it returns.

  5. After reviewing all the excellent science, investigative reporting, and economic analysis in this thread, I breathlessly look forward to future discussions here offering solutions to other difficult engineering problems—other than proving water is wet. We got that one.

  6. Actually, these patent applications are simply very cleverly disguised patents for Apple’s new, gigantic Earth-wide Reality Distortion Field Generator. All those court cases are just Apple keeping Samsung distracted so it can’t copy the RDFG in time.

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