Festo, the company that studied the way birds fly through its 2011 SmartBird (pictured above), has created DualWingGenerator. It challenges the assumption that the windmill is the end-all, be-all of wind tech by replacing rotor blades with wings. After all, birds flap their wings to gain enough power to move through the air, so it only makes sense that we would imitate them. Now, while a bird propels itself, the DualWingGenerator remains in place, gathering kinetic energy from airflow. Wind pushes the wings up and down, which turns a belt inside the device, creating a rotary movement, which is then converted into electricity by an electric motor inside the generator.
One of the main problems with wind energy has always been the fact that wind isn't constant. Sometimes it’s strong, sometimes it's weak, and sometimes it's non-existent. The DualWingGenerator is self-optimizing, though, and it can be used in a variety of wind conditions. Even at wind speeds as low as four meters per second, it will efficiently crank out energy. It does so by adjusting the frequency, amplitude, and angle of wing flapping. And much like an airliner’s wings, the generator's wings will bend with the wind to offer the most appealing angle for gulping up large quantities of wind, and thus energy.
Anyone who has paid attention to politics during the past twenty years is surely aware that finding alternative energy is not just useful: it’s essential to the continuation of the tech-filled lives we've created. Breakthroughs like DualWingGenerator might not seem as sexy as, say, giant floating Wi-Fi producing balloon-mounted turbines. But these small tweaks in efficiency make alternative energy closer to a reality, and that’s something to celebrate.