Recently, CleanTechies had the pleasure to speak with Phillip Ridings, CEO of Dragonfly Industries, Inc. We talked about the the company, its products, and what its products may mean for the clean tech sector. If Dragonfly lives up to it’s reputation it could easily revolutionize the wind industry.
CleanTechies: Phillip, can you tell us a little about the designs for the Dragonfly Turbine and MantaRay Power stations and what kind of plans you have for their future?
Phillip: Dragonfly is our land based wind turbine and MantaRay is our new water turbine so we can build one of the first Off Shore Power Stations! This product was conceived after the oil spill in the gulf. Not that we can fix the problem, but there are over 3800 Oil Rigs along the Texas / Louisiana coastline many people are not even aware of. We also know that not all of them are still producing oil so we would like to re-purpose them and turn them into one of the first “Off-Shore Power Plants” using MantaRay Water Turbines below the gulf stream waters and Dragonfly turbines above. The gulf stream has a constant flow and the natural wind power and underwater currents throughout the gulf which would be a perfect fit for this exciting conversion.
CleanTechies: Can you tell us how shrouded turbines are different from conventional 3 bladed turbines?
Phillip: Shrouded (ducted) designs come in many shapes and sizes, the concept is to create a focal point for air flow and force more air to pass over the standard turbine prop blades. The idea born in 1957 when they started working with different airfoils… but nothing was built until the mid 90’s! In a CFD (computer fluid dynamics) modeling tests on wind turbines H.Grassmann, M.L.Ganis, Dipartimento di Fisica, Univ.di Udine, Italy published this report. This testing proved once and for all Betz Law only applies to all rotor or prop driven wind turbines where the relative speed of the air can not be increased. This is what Dragonfly does better than any another other shrouded (ducted) design with its “Body Ring Airfoil”, which accelerates the relative speed of the wind. There have been many designs and concepts already tested but most of them were too heavy, bulky and not cost effective enough to be considered as a better working solution compared to the 3 bladed systems of its day. In most cases all shrouded systems produced about 2.4 times more energy then a conventional wind turbine but the cost was the deciding factor even though it produced 60% more power than any 3 bladed conventional system today. Every shrouded or ducted system was on the right track, they just didn’t take the design far enough.
Let me explain – when you look at any ducted wind turbine… the tail on every design is flared out! This is because as the air passes over the spinning props it creates more air turbulence behind it. When they tried to streamline the design and close the cavity, the vortices’s and turbulence was so bad it would shake the unit apart! The only answer was to expand the tail section to allow all this turbulent air to flow out freely and as fast as possible. What they didn’t know back then is, the answer to harnessing all this extra potential energy is accomplished by adding a simple diffuser within the design. This is what Dragonfly does but we decided there was enough potential energy in that turbulent air to harness even more power. We can’t change the volume of air coming in the unit and the thinking was that there would not be enough energy to harness more power… wrong! By reducing the size of the next generator by 25% all we are doing is compressing that same volume of air and creating a “ velocity profile” like your average garden hose nozzle. The smaller you make the opening the faster that same volume of air has to pass through the system and out the tail! We discovered we can have as many as 3 units compressing that large volume of air and it increases the winds energy. As a result the air flow speed passing over the third section is almost as fast as the relative speed of the wind! But you need to look at every wind turbine today and ask yourself one Question: “Does this turbine accelerate the relative speed of the wind, Does it make the wind flow faster?” If the answer is “no” then your looking at a system that will never produce more then 40% of the winds potential energy, which is the maximum amount of energy three bladed turbines can extract from the wind. So when you look at the cross section of Dragonfly it suddenly hits you by adding more generators not only did we create a very unique diffuser but we have a built-in, redundant system of creating energy, our own built in “backup system” to insure you still have power if one goes out!
Every 3 bladed wind turbine is using a simple “airfoil” to catch the wind. Conventional turbines today also work with a rotor hub to gearbox to generator configuration and this is why they loose so much of the winds potential energy, over 50% of this energy is lost on every system designed like this. Dragonfly’s configuration is very different and is using airfoils built into the body of the nacelle. We are not losing any of the winds potential energy because we have shortened the steps in harnessing wind with our Body Ring Airfoil to Generator design! This is a much better way to harness the winds energy using Bernoulli’s principle in fluid dynamics by redesigning an integrating our “Prop” into the body of the nacelle. This new concept increases the relative speed of the wind over a secondary blade system. The engine core inside the Body Ring Airfoil uses smaller more efficient turbine blades connected directly to the generator. The blade system we use is similar to those found in today’s Jet Engines for a faster air to power ratio! This unique design maximizes the air flow 2.4 to 4 times more than any conventional wind turbine and this translates into more efficient renewable electrical energy production!
CleanTechies:You mentioned that your designs are safer for the environment and wildlife. Can you give some detail on what makes it safer for birds, bats and other wildlife?
Phillip: Dragonfly’s unique design also reduces the impact on nature, individual owners and community concerns across the board! To tell you the truth we didn’t start out to design a wind turbine that would solve all the problems currently facing 3 bladed systems today. It’s just the fact that Dragonfly’s unique design simply negates them! What makes Dragonfly safer is we are not using huge blades that are exposed! Our blades are on the inside of the body! Less exposure and less likely to damage anything or anyone! Ironically, any bird or bat could actually fly directly in front of a Dragonfly. People, at first glance, may think it would suck the birds or bats inside, this is where we differ from conventional jet engines as there is no suction associated with Dragonfly Turbines as we are just using the relative speed of the wind so any bird or bat could fly directly in front of our unit and not be harmed. To ensure this we can add a dome of wire mesh to the intake to prevent this from happening in known migratory areas. Any bird would have to fly directly inside the system in order to be harmed. Unlike flying through an open field of wind turbines birds and bats are not even aware of the dangerous props spinning around them. Flying along in formation as a huge blade reaches up another 150ft or so and cuts through the migrating flock. Dragonfly however has nothing exposed to hurt anyone or anything! It was suggested that we add perch poles extending outward for some birds to either build a nest or use it to rest on. As I said we didn’t set out to design a solution, but its nice to know the solution has presented itself to Eco-Friendly groups who plan to endorse Dragonfly in the future! I would like to challenge you to find any flaw with this design concept – if you do please let me know! As of today I think we have the best wind turbine your money can buy!
CleanTechies: Do you plan to build smaller turbines for home use or will you focus on larger turbines for community based power plants?
Phillip: Yes, we do. Its called our “Firefly” division. These will be units that are 2ft in diameter and smaller! Meaning if we can figure out just how small we can make them and still produce energy you’ll find a Firefly in your neighborhood in the near future. One of the areas we want to look into integrating Firefly into is electric cars. Integrated into an electric cars battery system. lets say you had two batteries. As the car drains one Firefly is charging the other and vise versa. Dragonfly feeds the wheels and keeps the battery system charged which would extend the electric cars range.
This is not the only market for a smaller Dragonfly. If you need a power source on your boat, RV, or cabin in the woods I’m sure we can put a Dragonfly, MantaRay or Firefly there! Because of its unique design we are finding new uses and ideas every day. We even have one for remote cell phone towers where gasoline is not readily available, but wind is! Frank Martin has joined the company to take Dragonfly into a Nano Market, and to figure out just how small can we make them and still produce power! He wants a Dragonfly in every computer using a fan… take that known energy, force feed it through a small Dragonfly to power your monitor! Right there you’re saving money using your own computer! It’s only limited to your own imagination or where ever energy is needed. In today’s world it’s the back bone of life, you can’t go through a day without it!
CleanTechies: How far away are we from seeing Dragonflies for sale at a local dealerships?
Phillip: We plan to start setting distribution systems up within a year. Right now we are focusing more on the orders we already have and the funny thing is we don’t even have our prototype ready to show anyone yet! All of this was built on the computer fluid dynamics tests that has given us our “proof of concept”.
CleanTechies: Do you have any financial estimates as to how quick a customer will see a return on their investment given today’s power costs?
Phillip: There are variables but our rough “guesstimate” tells us that our commercial systems will pay back in 5 years and most of our residential units with the federal and state incentives on wind today should be 3-5 years and every little bit helps! Our long term goal is to help the average home owner and we want to help you wipe out another utility bill and under Federal law see a faster return by generating energy for the power grid and receiving a check each month. If you plan to stay exactly where you are you’ll always be paying an electric bill or if you invest now and have something attached to your home that generates an income in a few years instead of draining it! This is where so many wind turbines want to be… but very few even come close. At best they can only cover 15 – 35% of a home owners energy needs and are forced to supplement that with solar. Our goal is to finally give the public something that pays for itself and generates an income in a few short years! It’s really up to the customer on where they want to be in 3, 5 to 10 years time.
Unit pricing for a turn key system should start about 15K up to 25K with options. For small businesses its starts at 30K up to 45K and then we have our commercial models that will one day replace wind farm systems! I’m sure somewhere in there we are going to make something in between the small business and commercial units because there’s another growing market and Dragonfly is going to fill it!
CleanTechies: Thank you so much for speaking with CleanTechies. We wish you the best of luck in your endeavors and look forward to a follow up interview.